Miscommunication results in continuance of Ralpho Township theft case
SUNBURY - A mixup in communication over who is representing a 47-year-old Coal Township man charged in a June 2 robbery in Ralpho Township forced Northumberland County Judge Charles Saylor to continue the defendant's five criminal cases Monday afternoon.
Robert Forrest Smith was initially scheduled to enter a plea Monday morning before Judge William H. Wiest, but his legal proceeding was transferred to Saylor's first-floor courtroom for 1:15 p.m. before being continued due to the absence of legal counsel for the defendant.
On the county court schedule, Smith's attorney was listed as conflicts counselor John Broda, who withdrew from the case about a month ago because he is representing the victim of a robbery Smith is accused of committing. Attorney James Best, who normally handles cases for the court when conflicts counsel is forced to withdraw for conflicting reasons, was believed to be Smith's new attorney. After Best couldn't be located in the courthouse, Saylor instructed his secretary to call the attorney's nearby office. But it was determined that Best was on his way to Bradford County to represent a client and wouldn't be available to serve as Smith's attorney, prompting Saylor to continue the cases. No new date has been scheduled.
Smith, who was represented by Public Defender Paige Rosini at his preliminary hearing, is charged by Ralpho Township Patrolman Chris Dailey with two counts each of robbery, burglary and criminal trespass, four counts each of aggravated assault and simple assault, two counts each of theft and receiving stolen property, and four counts of possession of OxyContin relating to the June 2 robbery of 300 prescription pills and $3,150 from the Paxinos home of 79-year-old Irvin F. Snyder.
He is accused of stealing the money and pills from Snyder at knifepoint.
Smith was recommitted to Northumberland County Prison.
Snyder's granddaughter, Melanie J. Guinther, 30, of 244 S. Beech St., Mount Carmel, and Katie Lynn Labus, 20, of 400 Bay St., Coal Township, also were charged by Dailey with robbery-related offenses.
Labus pleaded guilty July 23 to charges of criminal trespass and theft by unlawful taking and was sentenced by Wiest to three to 12 months in county prison. Labus, who was given credit for prison time previously served, was released from the county jail Friday.
Guinther, who has been free on bail since June 15, waived her case in magisterial district court and is awaiting plea court.
Smith also is charged with multiple offenses involving four criminal complaints filed by Shamokin and Coal Township police.
Shamokin Cpl. Bryan Primerano charged Smith with simple assault and disorderly conduct relating to a disturbance that occurred approximately 20 minutes before the Ralpho Township robbery. He is accused of assaulting his former girlfriend, Barbara Somers, 33, of Coal Township, at 19 S. First St., Shamokin.
Smith also is charged by Coal Township Patrolman Edward Purcell with three counts of retail theft in connection with incidents at Wal-Mart Supercenter along Route 61 on April 15, April 29 and May 15. The defendant is accused of stealing a grill valued at $94, detergent, beef stick and pistachios worth $40.24, and a Dyson vacuum cleaner valued at $399.