The addition of another attorney — the fifth — is expected to save money in 2008.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR PENNSYLVANIA BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. — The arrests and prosecution of dozens of Detroit drug dealers here continues to cost Lawrence County taxpayers.
County commissioners on Tuesday added a fifth attorney to the list of attorneys who are called to handle criminal cases when there are multiple defendants. The county public defender’s office is only permitted to represent one person when there are multiple defendants in a case. Others are given to attorneys contracted by the county courts. Until this week, there were only four on that list.
When a criminal prosecution involves more than five defendants, outside attorneys are contracted on an hourly rate.
Lawrence County Common Pleas Court President Judge Dominick Motto told commissioners the county had an unusually busy year in 2007 because of the prosecution of 28 people alleged to be part of a Detroit drug ring.
Commissioners transferred $31,000 from various other accounts on Tuesday to fill holes in the courts budget spent on outside attorney fees from the drug arrests.
Motto noted that 95 percent of those arrested in the Detroit ring are through the court system.
He said the addition of another attorney under county contract should save the county money as they finish those cases and handle any others in the future.
Commissioners approved contracts with attorneys Brian Levine, William Panella, Joseph Kearney, Brandt Bythrow and Nikki Christopher. Each will be paid $20,000 for the one-year contract and will handle an unlimited number of criminal cases, excluding murder cases.