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NEW CASTLE Man seeks lifting of ban



Published: Wed, January 23, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Bob Semler remains in county custody, but is being detained in a hospital.

By LAURE CIOFFI

VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU

NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Bob Semler wants a judge to lift a county order banning him from the Lawrence County Government Center.

His attorney, William G. Cohen of New Castle, filed papers in both civil and criminal court Tuesday designed to get the order thrown out, claiming county officials violated his client's constitutional rights and the state's Sunshine Act, a law designed to make officials conduct all business in public.

No public vote was taken before the county solicitor sent a letter banning Semler, 78, of Highland Avenue from the government center, Cohen said.

The letter, dated Dec. 22, stems from a county commissioner's meeting earlier that week when Semler threw a toothbrush at a county commissioner. The Highland Avenue man was later charged with disorderly conduct and disrupting a public meeting.

Semler's attorney said county officials violated state law when they banned him from the building.

"If Semler is excluded, then the public is excluded. He is John Q. Public," said Cohen.

Seeks injunction: Cohen is asking the court for a preliminary injunction lifting the ban. A hearing will likely be held later this week, he said.

The county solicitor could not be reached to comment.

Semler has also filed papers in criminal court challenging the legality of his detention in the Lawrence County Jail. Cohen said county prosecutors did not meet the burden of proof at a preliminary hearing to hold his client on two charges of criminal trespass.

Those charges were bound to common pleas court by District Justice Melissa Amodie after a Jan. 11 preliminary hearing.

Arrests: Semler was arrested twice on New Year's Eve after attempting to enter the county building. Semler contended the ban was a violation of his constitutional rights.

Semler was initially arrested and released without bond, but when he returned he was placed in the county jail after failing to pay a $500 bond.

Semler is still in county custody and is in the Ellwood City Hospital under psychiatric evaluation, his attorney said.

cioffi@vindy.com




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