Varano pleads no contest to summary offense
SHAMOKIN - After deliberating their legal options and waiting a few hours for several other court proceedings to be resolved, Kulpmont Borough Council President Bruno Varano pleaded no contest Tuesday afternoon to a summary offense of disorderly conduct relating to an August incident at the Jan Sobieski Club involving an undercover officer from the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement (LCE).
The 60-year-old Varano, who paid a fine and costs totaling $341, had an additional charge of furnishing alcohol to minors withdrawn.
By pleading no contest, Varano is neither admitting nor denying guilty but realizes enough evidence exists that could result in him being convicted at trial.
The defendant's grandson, Cody Shustack, 20, of Kulpmont, who was charged in connection with the same incident, agreed to enter the treatment court substance abuse program coordinated by Northumberland County Drug and Alcohol Department in an effort to have a summary offense of underage drinking expunged. Shustack must pay $450 to enroll in the 15-hour program, which is similar to the county Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program, but is only for individuals under the age of 21.
Additional charges of drinking while tending bar at the Jan Sobieski Club in Kulpmont and escape were withdrawn against Shustack Tuesday at Gembic's office.
If Shustack is successful in completing the program that involves counseling and treatment, the underage drinking charge will be expunged from his record. But if he fails to complete the program, the underage drinking charge and possibly the other two offenses could be reinstated.
Varano and Shustack said they were glad their cases were finally resolved. "We are both happy to have this behind us and I have more important things to do with the borough," Varano said.
Both defendants made their decisions about their cases after conferring with their lawyer David Noon of Sunbury, who reserved comment after the proceedings.
LCE officer Jannell (Wilk) College, who filed the charges against Varano and Shustack, also declined comment. She was accompanied to the hearings by LCE supervisor Earl Killion.
Assistant District Attorney Michael Toomey did not oppose Varano's no-contest plea or Shustack's enrollment in the treatment court program initiated for youth offenders a few years ago by Magisterial District Judge Hugh Jones of Mount Carmel, who recused himself in November from hearing the cases due to a conflict of interest.
The hearings had been continued a couple times at Gembic's office.
In regard to Shustack's charges, Toomey stated, "There were evidentiary issues in the case. The escape charge wasn't there because he (Shustack) was never in custody. The LCE official also didn't have an opportunity to smell his breath due to the circumstances involving the incident."
Varano, of 34 S. 10th St., Kulpmont, was charged Oct. 2 by College, who was working undercover as a patron inside the Kulpmont social club at approximately 2 a.m. Aug. 3, when she allegedly observed Shustack take a drink from a bottle of Dr. McGillicuddy's liquor while he was tending bar. College left the establishment and came back 30 minutes later with four Kulpmont police officers and attempted to gain entry after the doors were locked, she said.
When Varano, the board-approved manager of the club, opened the door after College identified herself as an officer, he allegedly said to College, "You ever been shot?"
Varano then attempted to block College's access to the club and argued with her when she explained the underage drinking violation, according to a criminal complaint.
"He's allowed, he's tending bar!" Varano allegedly yelled at the officer.
On two occasions, Varano had to be moved away from College, and had to be taken from the premises for alleged belligerent conduct, police said.