Prosecutors respond to Handerhan's claims of ineffective counsel
HARRISBURG - U.S. prosecutors have responded to a former Mount Carmel police officer's claims that ineffective counsel led to his conviction and prison sentence for child pornography possession.
In a 13-page brief filed July 16, Assistant U.S. Attorney James T. Clancy wrote that claims made by Blaine Handerhan do not follow the standards and rulings set by a 1984 case.
According to case law, Clancy wrote in the brief, ineffective assistance by counsel claims requires the filer to establish that the performance of counsel fell below the objective standard of reasonableness and that the errors of counsel prejudiced the defense.
Handerhan, he said, proved neither.
The former police lieutenant is locked up at a federal prison in Fort Dix, N.J., after pleading guilty to a charge of possession of child pornography, a plea he says he gave reluctantly due to the stress of defending himself against the allegations. Police say more than 147,000 images and 1,200 video files were discovered on his personal computer at his home in Swatara Township, Lebanon County. Handerhan says peer-to-peer file sharing software allowed remote access to his machine. He was sentenced in August 2012 to serve eight years.
Handerhan's appeal filed in February includes allegations that attorney Matthew Gover failed to file motions to dispute the legality of a search warrant and to suppress statements made to police allegedly given in violation of his Miranda rights. Gover gave up law altogether while Handerhan's case headed toward sentencing after Gover was diagnosed with brain cancer, according to the appeal.
The U.S. Attorney answered Handerhan's claims about the wrong address on the search warrant by saying that although Handerhan's residence is in Swatara Township, it has a Jonestown mailing address, obtained through his Internet provider.
Handerhan also claimed his defense attorney should have made a motion to suppress statements made during the execution of the search warrants. Clancy argued that despite the statements, that was not the basis for the case.
"The driving force behind the guilty plea was the overwhelming forensic evidence gathered pursuant to the validly obtained search warrant," he wrote in his brief.
Handerhan will have a chance to respond to the U.S. Attorney's argument before a federal judge will rule on the petition for a new trial and the overturning of his conviction and sentencing.