MILFORD — On July 20, a Pike County jury acquitted Rashun Austion of possession of drug paraphernalia and deadlocked on the charge of possession of nearly a kilo of heroin.
Initially Austion and a passenger were charged on May 8, 2015 with possession of more than a kilo heroin, possession of drug paraphernalia and criminal conspiracy to deliver heroin, after a traffic stop near Exit 20 of Interstate 84.
On Friday, July 8, 2016, a jury was selected with opening statements scheduled for July 18th. On that day, Pike County District Attorney Raymond Tonkin dropped the conspiracy charge and lowered the amount of heroin Austion was alleged to have possessed to less than one kilo. Meanwhile, the co-defendant was offered a plea to possession of drug paraphernalia relating to a pipe and cigars that were found in her purse. She accepted the offer extended to her, and was removed from the trial.
Austion, testifying in his own defense, stated he had been driving a borrowed car and was unaware the bag that was in the car contained heroin.
The court declared a hung jury on the possession charge, accepted the jury’s not guilty verdict on the paraphernalia charge while finding the defendant guilty of the traffic infraction of driving with the headlights out. In regards to this offense, the court imposed a fine of $25 to which District Attorney Tonkin objected.
Defense attorney Robert Reno thanked the jury for its close attention to the facts of the case and expressed dismay regarding loopholes in the investigation regarding who owned the car and who loaned the vehicle to his client, Austion. Reno referred to the heroin seized in this case as “poison” and that the way to ultimately stop its trafficking in Pike County is to track it to its source, not to rely on an isolated ill-fated arrest.
Reno said Tonkin failed to get a conviction in both this case, and the last case he personally prosecuted in the Court of Common Pleas approximately two and a half years ago.
Prison For Wild Acres
MILFORD — Pike County District Attorney Ray Tonkin announced that Myron Cowher, 53, who with Dimitry Kupershmidt was previously found guilty on numerous charges related to a scheme to fix an election in the private community of Wild Acres Lakes in Delaware Township, was sentenced to state prison last week by Judge Gregory H. Chelak.
Cowher was sentenced to a term of 1½ to 4 years and fined a total of $10,850. Cowher was previously convicted of 217 counts of forgery, identity theft, criminal attempt, criminal conspiracy, tampering with records, and criminal use of a communication facility.
At the time of the offenses, Cowher was the secretary on the Board of Directors and Kupershmidt was the chairman of the Board. Kupershmidt, who was also convicted in the scheme, had his sentencing continued to a later date based on retaining a new attorney.
The charges were the result of an incident occurring in May 2014, when a Wild Acres employee called the District Attorney’s Office, saying he was concerned about a possible scheme to fraudulently fill out ballots in the community’s election that was to be held in June.
The election was for five positions on the community’s board of directors. As with many private communities, the board of directors serves as the governing body for the community. Wild Acres is a non-profit corporation registered through the Pennsylvania Department of State.
The employee informed the State Police that Cowher had wanted to meet with him to pick up a collection of ballots that were to be mailed out to individual lot owners. Cowher had directed the employee to select the ballots of lot owners who owned vacant lots that were not suitable for building. Cowher admitted to the employee that he selected these people because they rarely voted in elections.
State police monitored a meeting between the employee and Cowher during which Cowher filled out nine of the ballots and took the remaining 62 ballots to fill out at a later time. Upon leaving the meeting Cowher was arrested by the State Police.
During the trial, evidence was presented showing that an agreement existed between Cowher and Kupershmidt regarding the scheme and that Kupershmidt had suggested to the employee that he turn off the cameras in the office building to prevent anyone finding out what they were doing.
Tonkin stated, “While we sought a stiffer sentence from the court, I am satisfied that Cowher was sentenced to state prison, and that he has been held accountable for his attempts to fraudulently alter the election.”
First Assistant District Attorney Bruce DeSarro, who presented the case to the jury, stated, “We hope that this case sends a strong message to people in positions of trust in a private community who would think about abusing that trust.”
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