Public defender charged by Pa. State Police

NEW CASTLE, Pa. — Lawrence County’s chief public defender remains on the job despite being and charged by Pennsylvania State Police with obstructing justice and disorderly conduct.

Atty. Harry O. Falls, 56, of was arraigned on the charges Thursday. State police filed the charges after a run-in with Falls outside the county government center.

An affidavit filed to support the charges says Trooper David Tyler was testifying at a suppression hearing in common pleas court in a case involving Ronald Hudach III, 20, of Neshannock Township. Falls was acting as Hudach’s public defender.

After the hearing, Tyler discovered Hudach was wanted on an outstanding warrant by New Wilmington Police and took him into custody.

Court papers state that Falls followed Tyler and told him he was an “ugly, evil person.” Tyler continued with Hudach, and the chief public defender followed and continued demeaning the state trooper, the affidavit says.

The state trooper was placing Hudach in the back of his patrol vehicle and Falls followed his client into the car. Police said the public defender told the trooper he would not take Hudach without a witness. Falls eventually did get out the car, but stood in the rear, just a few inches away, impeding it from moving, police said.

When the state trooper told Falls to move, Falls started yelling for someone to call 911.

Hudach’s grandfather, Ronald Hudach Sr., 68, said he gave Falls his cellular telephone and the public defender moved from the police car.

Shortly after the incident, county commissioners were contacted by the state police.

Commissioner Dan Vogler said a state trooper came to the office that day to speak to the commissioners about the matter, but all three were out. Commissioners oversee the county public defender’s office.

Vogler said the three commissioners and county solicitor met with Falls on Friday morning and discussed the matter.

Vogler said that upon the recommendation of the county solicitor, Falls will remain as chief public defender until the outcome of his Jan. 23 preliminary hearing in Lawrence County Central Court. Vogler said they will then again review the matter.

Falls was released without bond. He did not return calls from The Vindicator for comment.

Falls’ client was one of three men charged with a series of thefts from vehicles in New Wilmington in July. The men, however, were not charged until this week.

Hudach and Shane J. McDevitt, 21, of Neshannock Township were arraigned Thursday, and Joshua A. Yost, 25, of New Wilmington was arrested and arraigned Tuesday.

All three are charged with multiple counts of theft by unlawful taking, theft from a motor vehicle, receiving stolen property and criminal conspiracy.

Police said the arrests stem from thefts from nine unlocked vehicles in New Wilmington from which items valued at about $2,765 were taken. Among the things taken was a handgun recovered by Youngstown police on Dec. 3 after being used in an aggravated robbery.

Hudach also   is charged with criminal use of a communication facility, possession of heroin, possession with the intent to delivery heroin, and delivery of a controlled substance. Police said those charges stem from a controlled drug buy with a police informant on July 28 in New Castle.

Police contend the drug investigation was developed from the theft investigation, and they believe the three men were allegedly committing thefts to support drug activities.

Yost was in jail Friday after failing to post $20,000 bond and Hudach was released after posting $20,000 bond. McDevitt was taken to state correctional institute at Albion, where he is serving a sentence on other criminal charges. All three are expected to appear for preliminary hearings Thursday.

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