Frein attorneys withdraw request

| 11 May 2015 | 04:53

    By Nathan Mayberg
    Attorneys for Eric Frein, who is accused of shooting two state troopers, are no longer asking for a change of venue for a trial.

    According to a letter to the Pike County Court of Pleas received by the court on May 8, attorneys William Ruzzo and Michael Weinstein withdrew their earlier request to move the trial out of Pike County.

    The attorneys had previously cited campaign mailers sent out by Pike County District Attorney Ray Tonkin which they said tainted the jury pool.

    They also cited extensive media coverage as a reason.

    Tonkin had sent out mailers to Republican voters who are eligible to vote in the May 19 primary election between himself and Kelly Gaughan.

    The fliers state that Tonkin is the only person who has prosecuted a murderer and can be trusted to "prosecute this man" next to a picture of Frein. The attorneys believe that flier taints the ability for Tonkin to get an untainted jury trial, removes the burden of proof from the prosecution and removes the cloak of innocence from Frein.

    Gaughan, an attorney who is married to a retired state trooper, has been endorsed by an association of active and state troopers.

    The defense attorneys are still seeking to stop Tonkin from using Frein’s image in any additional campaign mailers, advertisements or making reference to him in statements.

    Frein responded by calling the venue change request a legal stunt and said the attorneys had indicated before the mailers that they intended to request a change of venue.

    In a statement issued Monday in which he provided a copy of the withdrawal, Tonkin said “Given my fifteen years of criminal prosecution experience, and my experience in capital murder cases, I knew the motion would have failed if based only the campaign material. There was extensive national media attention given to the case, and to not include the details of that coverage would have been fatal to the motion.”

    A hearing on the request by the defense attorneys is currently scheduled in Pike County Court in front of Judge Gregory Chelak on Thursday, May 14th.

    Messages left with Ruzzo and Weinstein were not returned.