'Safe case' civil suit drags on in court
WILLIAMSPORT - More than eight years after a large safe was stolen from a West Cameron Township home, a resulting civil lawsuit continues to wind its way through federal court.
There's been a flurry of legal filings in the past week in U.S. Middle District Court here regarding the "safe case," but whether defendants, which include Shamokin police officers, will face trial remains up in the air.
Peter G. Loftus, of Waverly, the attorney for plaintiff Donna Deitrick, filed objections Sunday in response to motions for summary judgment - which ask that the case be tossed - filed by her ex-husband, Robert Yoncuski, and fellow defendants Jane Acri, Linda Long and Vanessa Long Yoncuski.
Loftus also asked for a continuance until Tuesday to file objections to the dismissal motions filed by the City of Shamokin and its police department, former police chief Richard Nichols (now deceased), and officers William Miner, William Zalinski, Mark Costa and special officer Robert Searls.
That objection was filed Tuesday, but the attorney handling the case for the city and police department, Amy Conyar Miller, of Harrisburg, filed a motion to strike the objection Wednesday,
saying it was not valid because it came after the court-imposed deadline.
U.S. District Court Chief Judge Yvette Kane has not made any decisions one way or another on the motions or on the extension, but she did this week on Tuesday refer the case to a U.S. magistrate judge to handle pre-trial conferences and procedures, and to make reports and recommendations back to her on how the case is proceeding.
It's not clear, however, if that suggests she won't be dismissing the case.
Also named in the suit are Jeff and Marianna Adams, of Dornsife, Kevin Balascik, of Sunbury, Thomas Yoncuski, of Trevorton, James Brown, of Shamokin, and Dennis Moore, of Shamokin.
Theft in August 2004
All the defendants are accused of conspiring to steal a safe from Deitrick's residence in August 2004 that contained approximately $300,000 in cash and $500,000 in jewelry and coins belonging to Deitrick and her brother, Kenneth Dietrick.
Robert Yoncuski, who was divorced from Deitrick in June 2007, pleaded guilty to a charge of theft in August 2010, and was sentenced to seven years probation, $1,000 in fines and $100,000 in restitution.
Deitrick filed her civil suit in 2006, claiming there was approximately $4 million in cash, jewelry and other items stolen from the safe, and that all involved were in a conspiracy to steal it from her.
She also claimed police violated her civil rights, injuring her by using force and falsely imprisoning her following an altercation with Vanessa Long and Robert Yoncuski at Shamokin City Police headquarters in 2004.
The latest filings were in response to a court order by Kane that said Deitrick had ample time to reply to the defendants' motions for summary judgement and motions for sanctions.
After asking for another extension on Nov. 23, Kane gave the plaintiff one week to file her objections, setting the deadline for last Friday.
The filings were ready on Nov. 30, according to Loftus, but a three-day maintenance outage of the court's PACER electronic case filing system forced the filings to be made Sunday.
In asking for the time extension, Loftus said there were 93 paragraphs in the motion to dismiss that he had to address, and the fact that his part-time secretary familiar with the PACER system was not available until Tuesday the brief against the Shamokin defendants' motion could not be completed by Nov. 30.
Loftus said Deitrick is acting in good faith by filing the other objections in a timely fashion.
Miller filed a response Monday objecting to the extension, noting it was the third time one was sought.
"(Loftus) has continuously and repeatedly delayed handling of this litigation through the entire process," Miller wrote. "Discovery responses were late or ignored. Counsel obviously plans poorly and apparently understands that this case is frivolous and not worth his time."
According to Miller, the plaintiff has had since Oct. 9 to prepare the response.
"The plaintiff has not demonstrated good faith whatsoever," Miller wrote.