Man charged in seven Coal Twp. thefts rejects plea deal, fires lawyer
SUNBURY - A Coal Township man charged with committing seven burglaries has rejected a plea offer from the district attorney's office and dismissed his attorney.
Eric J. Weikel, 33, of 1321 W. Spruce St., who remains in the county jail in lieu of bail, turned down an offer from assistant district attorney Michael Toomey that called for him to plead guilty to four counts of burglary, two counts of drug paraphernalia and one count of possession with intent to deliver heroin. Under the proposed agreement, Weikel would receive a minimum sentence of 24 to 30 months in state prison and all other charges would not be prosecuted.
But when called before Northumberland County President Judge William H. Wiest Monday morning, Weikel said he plans to take his cases to trial and dismissed county conflicts counsel John Broda. Weikel claimed Broda didn't have enough "face-to-face" meetings with him during his incarceration on the charges.
Weikel was initially assigned public defender Melissa Norton, but she consequently withdrew due to a conflict of interest. Other public defenders also have a conflict representing Weikel, meaning the court may have to appoint independent conflicts counsel James Best to provide the defendant with legal representation if Weikel chooses not to hire a private attorney.
Broda said he planned to withdraw as Weikel's attorney in the near future, but reserved further comment.
Weikel and his live-in girlfriend, Christine Rate, 27, were charged with four felony counts each of burglary, criminal conspiracy and criminal trespass, and three felony counts each of theft and receiving stolen property in connection with burglaries at 1223, 1323, 1326 and 1327 W. Spruce St., Coal Township, between Oct. 1 and Nov. 13.
On March 17, Rate was sentenced by Wiest to serve 11 to 23 months in Northumberland County Prison after pleading guilty to a felony of criminal conspiracy to commit burglary. Rate, who has cooperated with authorities in their investigation, was given credit by the judge last month for three months already served in prison.
Weikel was charged with felonies of burglary, theft, receiving stolen property and criminal trespass.
He is accused of stealing a gold chain valued at $1,000, rings and cash from the residence of his uncle Richard Weikel, of 515 Kulp Ave., Nov. 8. He also allegedly removed a Dell XPS studio laptop computer, a Sony NDX five-digital camera with two lenses in a black case, jewelry and approximately $1,000 in cash from the bedroom of Weikel's daughter, Steph.
Weikel also was charged with felonies of burglary and criminal trespass and misdemeanors of theft and receiving stolen property relating to an Oct. 29 incident at the residence of Brent Reed, 1325 W. Spruce St.
He was charged in an Oct. 23 burglary at the home of Michael Robtain, 1354 W. Spruce St., Coal Township, where he allegedly stole $13,000 in jewelry.
All the charges were filed by Coal Township Detective Jeff Brennan.
Weikel also was charged with drug-related offenses filed by Coal Township and Shamokin police.