Alleged rapist receives credit for time served
SUNBURY - A Sunbury man accused of raping his ex-girlfriend won't have to spend any more time in Northumberland County Prison.
Benjamin Scott Scheller, released on $1 bail in December after nine months in jail, pleaded guilty to misdemeanors of terroristic threats, unlawful restraint and simple assault Monday and was sentenced by Northumberland County Judge Charles H. Saylor to 9 to 23 months. Since Scheller had already served the minimum, Saylor gave him credit for time served and granted immediate parole.
In a case that exposed several potential conflicts of interest and led to the dismissal of the arresting office in Point Township, Scheller also was ordered to serve two years consecutive probation on an additional count of simple assault and false imprisonment and must pay fines, costs and fees.
Felonies of rape, sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault and burglary, and a misdemeanor of indecent assault were not prosecuted under the plea agreement.
Scheller was sentenced to 3 to 8 months each on the terroristic threats and unlawful restraint charges, and received a sentence of 3 to 7 months on the simple assault offense.
Scheller is accused of brandishing a semi-automatic handgun, zip-tying the victim to a chair and sexually assaulting her Nov. 27, 2011, at the victim's Point Township home.
No trial in 180 days
The defendant, who was represented by Attorney Michael Rudinski of Williamsport, was released from prison Dec. 17 after Saylor granted him nominal bail because prosecutors failed to bring his case to trial within six months of his arrest. Prior to being released, Scheller had been an inmate at the county jail since March 13.
Scheller was granted release due to a violation of Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 600, which requires defendants who are in prison to be tried within 180 days and ones who are free on bail to be tried within 365 days.
Scheller didn't object to Saylor hearing his case, even though the judge previously told Scheller he dealt with the victim and her family when he was once a volunteer track coach for Shikellamy High School.
That is not the only potential conflict of interest in the case.
Officer loses job
The alleged rape victim as of this fall was dating former Point Township Officer Wade Lytle, who was the original arresting officer. Also, the victim is a cousin to Point Township Police Chief Joshua Van Kirk.
Lytle, who had been a full-time officer with the department since the end of 2009, was placed on administrative leave with pay by Point Township supervisors Oct. 30 after informing Van Kirk on Oct. 18 that he had a romantic relationship with the victim. He was terminated by supervisors Nov. 5.
Lytle formerly served as a Sunbury police officer and deputy sheriff for Northumberland County.
President Judge Robert B. Sacavage and Judge William H. Wiest recused themselves from hearing the case because a secretary in the judges' office had been romantically involved with Lytle.