Prosecutors respond to request for appeal
HARRISBURG - Federal prosecutors have filed a brief in response to former Mount Carmel Borough Police Lt. Blaine Handerhan's appeal to set aside his prison sentence on child pornography charges.
U.S. Attorney Peter J. Smith submitted a 11-page brief on Friday in U.S. Middle District Court in Harrisburg, stating Handerhan's motion should be denied without a hearing,
In his 22-page petition for appeal, filed back in February, Handerhan cited several instances where he thought a jury would find him innocent and discussed a falling out with his first attorney, Matthew Gover.
Handerhan later said Gover withdrew from the case when he was diagnosed with Stage 4 brain cancer.
"It is unknown to me how many months prior to Attorney Gover's withdrawing from my case was I not represented," Handerhan wrote.
He claimed Gover had no intention of taking the case to trial. The former officer claimed Gover became extremely agitated with him when Handerhan refused to take a plea deal.
The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania affirmed Handerhan's sentence on Jan. 9, prompting him to refile the appeal on Feb. 12.
In the new filing, Handerhan again raised the question that counsel was ineffective, stating that his attorney did not adequately investigate his competency to stand trial or gather psychological or computer expert information soon enough.
Because of his filing, Smith said that Handerhan makes the argument for the prosecution.
"The manner in which Handerhan recited precise facts, analyzes the search warrant and offers opinions about legal conclusions makes it clear that he was, and continues to be, competent to aid in his own defense," Smith writes.
Smith also countered that when Handerhan pleaded guilty to one count of possession of child pornography on Aug. 21, 2012, the former police officer indicated that he had a full understanding of the nature of the proceedings, the plea agreement, the possible penalties and the ramifications of entering a guilty plea.
The prosecution also wrote that Handerhan benefitted from all the psychological evidence gathered by his attorneys as it brought him the eight-year sentence he received for the crime instead of the 10 years the government asked for.
Handerhan also challenged the validity of the search warrant and statements made in the case, but Smith countered the argument saying that then when a defendant pleads guilty, the defendant waives all non-jurisdictional issues.
As the motions go before the court, Handerhan remains incarcerated in the federal prison in Fort Dix, N.J.