US Attorney: Handerhan's conviction, sentence should not be overturned
HARRISBURG - The U.S. Government is asking a judge to allow its argument be entered into record that former Mount Carmel police officer Blaine Handerhan's sentence and conviction on child pornography charges should not be overturned.
The U.S. Attorney's office filed a motion and brief Wednesday to answer Handerhan's complaint that he had ineffective counsel in 2012, when he pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of child pornography and was sentenced to eight years in prison.
Handerhan, acting as his own counsel, filed two briefs supporting that claim in July; the second one makes new claims of ineffective counsel. The U.S. Attorney's office answered the first filing, but the court ruled the second claim would be heard with Handerhan's first one.
The motion filed Wednesday by the prosecution stated the court did not say in the order granting Handerhan's brief the United States could answer the charges, so they prepared a brief and asked that it be entered into the record.
Written by assistant U.S. attorney James T. Clancy, the 11-page brief addresses Handerhan's claims that council failed to conduct pre-trial and pre-sentencing investigations, that the restitution amount came as a surprise to him and that he was denied his right to a speedy trial.
As far as the investigations go, Clancy wrote that several trial continuances were given to allow defense counsel time to review the evidence, examine Handerhan for mental health issues and retain a forensic computer expert.
According to the brief, Handerhan's sentencing memorandum included a sexual offender evaluation by an expert psychologist that concluded he represented a low-risk to re-offend, detailed the defendant's treatment programs and included letters to his character.
The brief also states Handerhan was informed about the restitution clause in the plea agreement he signed. As far as the speedy trial clause goes, the prosecution states Handerhan is incorrect.
"He was not arrested Feb. 6, 2006. Rather, he was taken to a hospital to be evaluated for a mental health commitment due to suicidal statements made during the execution of the search warrant." He was later released after being evaluated without any mention of an arrest, until his indictment in October 2010.
The attorney's office also said Handerhan defeats his own purpose by asking how he could be mentally incompetent to stand trial yet files a claim to overturn the sentence if his counsel failed to heed his legal directive.
"Objectively reasonable counsel, bombarded by such numerous requests for legal motions, expert witnesses and investigations, would not doubt the mental competency of their client," Clancy wrote in the brief.
The former police lieutenant is in federal prison 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 said more than 147,000 images and 1,200 video files were discovered on Handerhan's personal computer at his home in Swatara Township, Lebanon County. Handerhan said peer-to-peer file sharing software allowed remote access to his machine.