Magistrate recuses himself from Kulpmont council president's criminal case
MOUNT CARMEL - Magisterial District Judge Hugh Jones has recused himself from hearing the case of Kulpmont Borough Council President Bruno Varano, prompting a one-week delay for the councilman's preliminary hearing.
Varano, 60, of 34 S. 10th St., Kulpmont, was charged Oct. 2 with disorderly conduct and "unlawful acts relative to liquor, malt and brewed beverages" by a state police liquor control enforcement officer in response to an early morning incident this summer at the Jan Sobieski Club, 10th and Scott streets.
When the charges were filed, a preliminary hearing was scheduled for Monday, but Jones disqualified himself Nov. 7. The hearing will be held before District Judge John Gembic III, Shamokin, Tuesday, Dec. 3.
Jones said Monday his recusal was to eliminate any doubt that Varano's hearing would be conducted fairly.
"Mr. Varano is the chief executive officer for a municipality in my district," he said. "No matter which way the case goes, I didn't think it was appropriate for me to hear it because I didn't want to open up any cause for someone to think there was favoritism."
He said the county court administrator determines the reassignment.
Varano was charged by LCE officer Janelle M. Wilt. She was working undercover as a patron inside the Kulpmont social club at approximately 2 a.m. Aug. 3, when she allegedly observed a bartender, Cody Shustack, 20, of Kulpmont, take a drink from a bottle of Dr. McGillcuddy's liquor while he was tending bar. Wilt left the establishment and came back 30 minutes later with four Kulpmont police officers and attempted to gain entry after the doors were locked, she said.
When Varano, the board-approved manager of the club, opened the door after Wilt identified herself as an officer, he allegedly said to Wilt, "You ever been shot?"
Varano then attempted to block Wilt's access to the club and argued with Wilt when she explained the underage drinking violation, charges state.
"He's allowed, he's tending bar!" Varano allegedly yelled at the officer.
On two occasions, Varano had to be moved away from Wilt, according to police. He had to be taken from the premises for alleged belligerent conduct, police said.
Shustack was charged with underage drinking, drinking while tending bar and escape. Because his case is directly related to Varano's, Jones also recused himself from that matter. Gembic will hear Shustack's preliminary hearing next week also.