Hearing Postponed For Men Charged In Slaying Of Drug Informant In Scranton

March 1, 2019

SCRANTON — The long-delayed preliminary hearing for two men charged in the killing of confidential informant Nina Gatto was postponed again Friday after a codefendant who is cooperating with the prosecution suffered a medical issue and could not testify. Prosecutors planned to call Melinda Palermo as a witness at the hearing for Cornelius Mapson and Kevin Weeks, who along with Palermo, are charged with homicide and other offenses in the April 20 death of Gatto at her North Scranton apartment. Magisterial District Judge Paul Keeler agreed to continue the hearing around noon — 2 1/2 hours after it was scheduled to start — after Lackawanna County District Attorney Mark Powell informed him that a commonwealth witness had a “medical episode” and was unable to testify. Later, outside the courtroom, Powell identified the witness as Palermo, 38, Jenkins Twp., and confirmed she is cooperating with his office. In granting the continuance, Keeler said every effort will be made to reschedule the hearing for Mapson, 33, also of Jenkins Twp., and Weeks, 25, Scranton, within 10 days. He told attorneys to expect the new hearing date to be set no later than Monday. Investigators say Mapson, Weeks and Palermo conspired to kill Gatto, 24, after she worked as a confidential informant during an investigation that led to Mapson’s arrest on felony drug charges in February 2018. The three originally intended to make Gatto’s death look like a fentanyl overdose, but when the woman didn’t die from the drugs, Mapson suffocated her, according to police. Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty for Mapson because of his role in masterminding Gatto’s death. All three defendants remain jailed without bail. Palermo waived her preliminary hearing in June, but the hearings for Mapson and Weeks were put on hold while Mapson’s former attorney challenged a court order removing him from the case over a conflict-of-interest issue. State Superior Court declined to hear the appeal in October. In court Friday, attorney Debra Domenick, who is representing Weeks with attorney Donna Devita, objected to the continuance. Domenick told Keeler her client has been jailed without a preliminary hearing for 305 days and asked the judge to grant him bail. Powell countered that the defendant is not eligible for bail because he is charged with homicide. Without getting into the eligibility issue, Keeler denied Domenick’s bail request based on the severity of the allegations against Weeks and his potential as a flight risk. Mapson’s attorneys, Bernard Brown and Christopher Szewczyk, indicated to the court they had no objection to the continuance. Contact the writer: dsingleton@timesshamrock.com, 570-348-9132