BELLFONTE — Scott J. Binsack had a hearing Thursday before state parole officials, who will determine over the next few weeks whether the Shamokin man violated his parole.
The hearing was held at State Correctional Institution-Rockview in this Centre County community.
Leo Dunn, spokesman with the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole (PBPP), said Binsack waived his first-level parole hearing, in which authorities determine whether they have probable cause to continue holding an alleged parole violator.
Dunn said PBPP immediately went into a second-level violation hearing, during which officials determine whether someone violated parole. Dunn said a hearing examiner listens to both defense and prosecution witnesses during such hearings.
Dunn said the outcome of Binsack’s hearing will not be made public until at least next week, and Binsack remains imprisoned at Rockview.
Such hearings are open to the public, but Rockview did not recognize requests for media presence because it is a “secure facility,” said Jeff Rackovan, institutional press officer at the prison, and no one from the public is allowed inside.
Binsack, a former homebuilder, became a household name in the Shamokin area in a matter of months starting in August when he presented a $13 million investment plan to city council. When his criminal history dating to 1999 from New York state and Lackawanna and Monroe counties became public knowledge, his involvement in the financial undertaking, which centered on renovation and construction of local homes and businesses, drew the attention of Pennsylvania securities officials.
Binsack is limited in what financial dealings he can partake in as part of his parole from theft and bad check charges in Monroe County. Any violation could mean Binsack would have to serve out his maximum sentence from those offenses, which would be until May 18, 2014.
However, he may also have his time on absconder status tacked onto his jail sentence.
Largely in response to Binsack’s offenses prior to him moving to Shamokin, a Scranton area legislator proposed the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act, which was signed into law by Gov. Ed Rendell in 2008.
Binsack responded to the negative publicity by starting the “Something’s Smokin in Shamokin” Facebook page and website, in which he posted videos critical of local officials and police. His campaign to root out corruption in the area piqued the curiosity of local social media users and others. He had some supporters, but many people were offended by his tactics and concerned about his reputation.
The Internet activity built up to the release of two hour-long episodes of “Something’s Smokin in Shamokin,” which Binsack billed as a “reality TV show.”
PBPP began to monitor the mounting tension between Binsack and local officials.
In late October, Binsack failed to show up for a scheduled meeting with a PBPP hearing officer and fled the state, actions that are typically considered parole violations. Binsack, who continued to post taunting messages to law enforcement on the Internet while on the lamb, was considered a parole absconder for a month before he was found by U.S. Marshals in a motel room in Bath, N.Y., on Nov. 20.
He had said online that he fled because he feared for his life, and that he was being set up for a parole violation even though his business plan was legitimate and he had received approval from PBPP for some of his financial activities.
On the day he was captured in New York, Binsack’s attorney filed a civil lawsuit on his behalf against six Shamokin officials, including two councilmen and the police chief, and two PBPP employees, claiming his constitutional rights to free speech, assembly, due process and liberty had been violated, that his ability to develop real estate opportunities was “seriously damaged,” that his “good name, reputation, honor and integrity” were injured, and that he has suffered emotional distress.