Man charged with Megan's Law violation held for court
MOUNT CARMEL - A Mount Carmel Township man charged with failing to adhere to a Megan's Law registration statute was held for court on the felony offense Wednesday afternoon at the conclusion of a 35-minute preliminary hearing that only included testimony from the arresting officer.
Although he admitted the violation is minimal, Magisterial District Judge Hugh Jones ruled the commonwealth established a prima facie case against James E. Bucher, 66, of Merriam, to hold him for plea court Nov. 25 at Northumberland County Courthouse, Sunbury.
The judge reduced Bucher's bail from $75,000 cash to unsecured supervised bail, but the defendant was recommitted to prison on a detainer for a parole violation in Schuylkill County. Bucher is currently being held in Northumberland County Prison, Sunbury, where he will await transport to Schuylkill County Prison in Pottsville.
Bucher pleaded not guilty to the offense. He was represented by county public defender Paige Rosini, who requested the charge be dismissed for lack of evidence and the bail reduction. Several objections made by Rosini pertained to hearsay evidence presented by the commonwealth and the wording of the Megan's Law registration statute. The attorney claimed the registration violation only applied to the owner of a vehicle, but Jones, after some brief research, determined the statute applies to the owner or operator of a vehicle.
Rosini declined comment after the hearing.
First assistant district attorney Ann Targonski, who prosecuted the case, said, "I respectfully disagree with the judge's characterization of the charge being minimal. I believe it is a serious offense in light of the circumstances."
Bucher can plead guilty or no contest, or seek a trial by pleading not guilty in the Court of Common Pleas.
Mount Carmel Cpl. David Donkochik, who filed the charges, was the lone witness.
He testified that the investigation was spurred by a Sept. 3 incident in which Bucher allegedly waved at a 12-year-old girl and her friends while driving a green vehicle around a residential neighborhood in the 400 block of West Avenue.
The mother who reported the incident showed pictures on the Megan Law's website to her daughter and she identified the driver as Bucher, according to Donkochik. Bucher is listed on the site as a Tier 2 sexual offender, which means he must register on the site for 25 years and appear for verification twice a year.
Donkochik said police approached Bucher at his residence and advised him there was a complaint made about him driving around a residential area in a green car and attempting to make contact with children.
The corporal said Bucher denied it was him and said he was around his house all day. Asked if he had a green car, he stated his wife has one she uses for work. The car is a two-door, teal green Pontiac Sunfire.
Donkochik went back to the complainant and showed her cell phone pictures of the car and Bucher. She said it was the car and the person she saw.
Police said vehicles registered to Bucher are a 1995 silver Chevrolet S-10 pickup, a 2008 red Chevy Cobalt, a combined Model A and Model T car reproduction and a 1955 red Ford Thunderbird.
Bucher didn't notify police that he has access to his wife's vehicle, police reported, prompting the violation charge.
Bucher is required to register on the site after pleading guilty to charges of unlawful contact with a minor and corruption of minors in Schuylkill County in February 2009. Butler Township police said Bucher showed up at the Lavelle home of a 14-year-old girl in August 2008, lured her into his vehicle, drove to a remote location and raped her. He was sentenced to 11 1/2 to 23 months in prison on the unlawful contact charge and five years probation for the corruption of minors charge.
The most serious offenses, including rape, sexual assault and aggravated indecent assault without consent, were withdrawn at Bucher's preliminary hearing, while charges of statutory sexual assault, indecent assault with both forcible compulsion and without consent, and luring a child into a vehicle were not prosecuted through a plea deal.