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Judge denies request of DA’s removal from St. John case

LOCK HAVEN — An attempt by Brian St. John III’s defense to remove the Clinton County District Attorney’s office from his upcoming trial was struck down by President Judge Michael F. Salisbury.

St. John, of Lock Haven, has been in the Clinton County Correctional Facility since February 2021 after the shooting death of Jakob L. Haines, 21, of Beech Creek, during a gathering at the St. John home in Woodward Township.

According to a filing in the Clinton County Clerk of Courts, the defense filed the motion on June 23, which asked DA Dave Strouse be removed and the prosecution be assigned to another agency — the Attorney General’s office.

The motion stated the following reason as to why Strouse and his office’s involvement was called into question by the defense:

“The deceased victim’s father… is friends with and follows District Attorney Dave Strouse on Facebook.”

“The deceased victim’s mother… is employed by Charles Rosamilia, Jr., Esquire who is the father of R. Thom Rosamilia, the First Assistant District Attorney of Clinton County.”

In Strouse’s response to the motion, he argued Haines’ parents “have a right to know what is occuring with the case and the District Attorney Office’s is obligated to, at least, keep them informed.”

“The victim, Jakob Lee Haines, is deceased as a result of the defendant’s actions,” Strouse’s response said. “Consequently, the parents (victims) are the main point of contact.”

Salisbury denied the motion Thursday after about a 15-minute recess.

Thursday afternoon Salisbury also made a decision on another motion filed by the defense.

The motion in limine — a procedural mechanism that allows litigators to seek to exclude certain evidence from being presented to a jury — was made to prevent the Commonwealth from admitting evidence, according to documents.

The motion came after the Commonwealth requested Detective John Lavrich recreate the shooting utilizing the same model of pistol used in the shooting, a Taurus Judge.

Fifteen demonstration videos total were put into question during the hearing which showed Lavrich explaining the assembly and operation of the firearm and the two types of ammo it utilizes — .410 shotgun shell and .45 colt — and example videos of him firing the weapon into paper targets.

A hearing was held last week regarding the defense’s request.

On Thursday, Salisbury’s opinion stated nine videos would be precluded and six are allowed to be submitted.

The six permitted include five of Lavrich displaying and providing information about a Taurus Judge and one showing him firing the weapon into a paper target.

The nine that were precluded involve various angles of Lavrich firing the weapon into paper targets using both .410 shotgun and .45 colt ammunition.

A hearing is set for a third motion, this one filed by Strouse and his office. It requests President Judge Craig Miller recuse himself from the criminal trial.

According to the motion, Strouse said the Haines family is of the strong opinion there is an “appearance of impropriety considering the circumstances and believes an alternate trial judge is required in the interest of fairness and justice.”

In his motion for recusal, Strouse pointed out Miller as a private attorney represented the defendant’s mother Bethy Jo St. John in criminal cases in Clinton and Lycoming counties in 2006.

The hearing will be held on Thursday, July 7.

St. John’s trial is set to begin on Aug. 15 and run through Sept. 2, with jury selection to take place July 14 and 15.

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