Keefer, Gembic feud is tied to court sentencing
SUNBURY - The Shamokin salvage yard owner sentenced Monday to 4 1/2 months to two years in prison was also ordered to avoid contact with John Gembic III, a former friend and business associate, and his family.
While the court agreed to that stipulation against Alfons Keefer, the defendant - who plans to appeal his sentence in the case of a stolen pickup truck - had his own criticism of Gembic, who is a magisterial district judge in Shamokin.
"This is a big vendetta against me by Mr. Gembic," Keefer said when asked by Judge Charles Saylor if he wanted to comment prior to being sentenced. "That's all I have to say."
During testimony at Monday's proceeding, Keefer's lawyer, Timothy Bowers, claimed Gembic had motives for testifying against Keefer, who has a lawsuit pending against the judge. Saylor sustained an objection by Toomey and Gembic stepped down from the witness stand.
At that point, Toomey requested Saylor include the stipulation that prohibits Keefer from having any contact with witnesses in the case, particularly Gembic.
"My family and I have continuously been stalked and harassed by Mr. Keefer and his family members," Gembic said later Monday. "Hopefully, it will stop now."
Noting Keefer was convicted by a jury of his peers, Gembic said, "Blame yourself for the crime, not me."
The judge, who is a licensed mechanic and notary, said he was friends with Keefer and did business with him often prior to the case.
Keefer was convicted in February of failing to return a 2001 Ford F-350 owned by Joy Kulenguskey, of Coal Township, after he towed it in 2008. He plans to appeal his sentence and remains free on $5,000 bail
Judicial board complaint
Keefer filed a complaint in 2009 with the State Judicial Conduct Board, claiming Gembic was using his influence to steer business for a rival towing company that the defendant claimed was partly owned by Gembic.
According to a Jan. 21, 2011, letter signed by Joseph A. Massa Jr., chief counsel for the judicial board, the board required Gembic to divest himself of all connections to any towing enterprise. The letter says no formal charges have ever been brought against Gembic for judicial misconduct and that the complaint has been dismissed.
In March 2011, Keefer filed a civil lawsuit in federal court naming Gembic, Coal Township, Shamokin, their respective police chiefs and Anthracite Towing and Recovery LLC, and its owner, as defendants. The pending suit claims the defendants deprived Keefer of his rights and caused him to lose $150,000 in business.
No truck, or credit
Meanwhile Monday, Kulenguskey testified she never recovered a digital camera, laptop, clothes, camping equipment and jewelry that she left in her truck.
She estimated their value at $5,000.
But when Saylor pointed out that she had listed the value of the items as $2,100 on a victim impact statement, the witness agreed to go along with the lower estimate.
Kulenguskey said she owned the truck for almost four years and owed between $32,000 and $35,000 to Ford Motor Credit Co. on an approximate $40,000 loan.
Under cross examination by Bowers, Kulenguskey admitted to being behind on payments before Keefer towed the truck, and that Ford was looking to repossess the vehicle.
After sentencing, Kulenguskey said, "My truck is gone and I want it back. I've had to walk since I don't have a vehicle, and my credit has been destroyed because of this case."
The court has ordered Keefer to pay $32,500 in restitution to Ford and $2,100 to Kulenguskey.