Key Motions In Pilchesky Case To Be Decided Soon
SCRANTON — A Scranton man who state prosecutors said illegally practiced law argued key motions in court today ahead of his trial set for later this month.
Joseph Pilchesky, 69, sparred Thursday with lawyers from state attorney general’s office before Lackawanna County Judge James Gibbons on a myriad of issues to settle before his Oct. 15 trial.
The issues include whether the attorney general violated Pilchesky’s right to a speedy trial and whether he can introduce a defense that his actions were a necessary remedy for the people who sought him out. The issues may be decided by Tuesday, when a pre-trial conference is scheduled.
Pilchesky, who is not an attorney, represented himself and said he intends to represent himself before the jury. By law, Pilchesky can do that. He ran into trouble, however, when prosecutors said he assisted several people with legal matters and accepted their money.
State agents charged Pilchesky in February 2013 with four counts of unauthorized practice of law. Pilchesky, known for a controversial website centered on local politics, said he is the victim of selective prosecution.
By the end of Thursday’s hearing, Deputy Attorney General Philip McCarthy approached Pilchesky with a plea deal. They moved out of earshot to discuss the deal. After that conversation, Pilchesky said it was “insulting” but declined to discuss what the offer was.
During the hearing, Pilchesky began to outline what his defense strategy may be — that people who approached him for help with legal work found no satisfaction from every other avenue they pursued.
“Let’s cut right to the chase,” Pilchesky said. “These people were screwed without any help.”
That defense doesn’t excuse the conduct of doing legal work without a license to practice law.
The case was repeatedly delayed because of appeals of pretrial matters, most of which were filed by Pilchesky, and the decision of two judges to recuse themselves. By law, the commonwealth must bring him to trial within 365 days, but the clock can run against one side or the other for delays.
McCarthy argued Pilchesky’s right to a speedy trial was not violated because the defendant caused most of the delay.
McCarthy acknowledged prosecutors also share some blame because they appealed a 2015 pretrial ruling Gibbons made regarding the burden of proof that must be met to secure a conviction.
Prosecutors argued they need only prove Pilchesky acted as an attorney. Gibbons said the state also must prove Pilchesky intentionally misled people to believe he was licensed to practice law. The state Superior Court reversed that ruling in December 2016.
Gibbons will decide by Tuesday if the speedy trial rule was violated.
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