Handerhan makes new 'ineffective counsel' claims
HARRISBURG - Former Mount Carmel police officer Blaine Handerhan filed two more claims of ineffective counsel Wednesday, with a judge adding them to his petition to overturn his conviction and sentence.
The eight-page brief, written by Handerhan from a federal correctional institution in Danbury, Conn. and filed Wednesday with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, in Harrisburg, once again claims that Handerhan's counsel, Matthew Gover, was ineffective in his defense of the former Mount Carmel Borough police officer, not filing motions or representing his interests before he pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of child pornography.
Gover, who was later diagnosed with a brain tumor and then terminal brain cancer, gave up his law practice and passed away in 2012 after the case was finished.
Handerhan said consideration must be made considering Gover's illness and the effect it was having on his defense.
"These were very serious mistakes with serious consequences for (Handerhan)," the brief reads. "Eight years in federal prison, $75,000 in restitution and 10 years supervised release, a very long separation from family, including his now 12-year-old twins, who are without their father during a critical stage of their development."
Handerhan says the question of how such a competent attorney could be so ineffective is explained by the extraordinary circumstances going on in Gover's life.
The brief contains three claims of impropriety with counsel, the first being that Handerhan was "blindsided" by his attorney shortly before the sentencing phase began.
"Counsel advised the defendant that the government intended on requesting $150,000 dollars in restitution, but that he was able to convince them to agree to $75,000 provided (Handerhan) accept the offer."
The brief reads that Gover advised Handerhan that he has seen courts impose restitution amounts of more than $1 million. He contends he was misled, because restitution may not have been an element of the crime.
Handerhan also claimed his right to a speedy trial was violated, evidenced by a 56-month delay between his arrest in February 2006 and his October 2010 grand jury indictment.
While there were 334 days between Handerhan's arraignment and his court date to plead guilty, the former officer stated that most of the continuances granted in the case, either by the defense or the prosecution, were done in a combined effort to delay the proceedings to continue to pressure him into giving up his right to a trial by jury by pleading guilty.
On Thursday, U.S. District Judge William W. Caldwell ruled Handerhan's latest brief addresses new claims, but that he'll allow it to be filed. It will be ruled upon with the defendant's other pending arguments, the judge said.
The former police lieutenant is locked up in federal prison after pleading guilty to a charge of possession of child pornography, a plea he says he gave reluctantly due to the stress of defending himself against the allegations.
Police say more than 147,000 images and 1,200 video files were discovered on his personal computer at his home in Swatara Township, Lebanon County. Handerhan says peer-to-peer file sharing software allowed remote access to his machine.