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Issue 3 — Thursday, August 18, 2016
Jury Deadlocks,
Defendant Walks

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
Ballot Scheme

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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Official Paper More Than
Forty Years

MILFORD — Although it has been publishing much, much longer, the Pike County Dispatch has been the newspaper of record for the County of Pike for more than 40 years. That means the Dispatch is the place to go to find out about public meetings, estate notices, bids, public hearings, real estate sales and transactions, and Sheriff sales.

The Pike County Commissioners listed the Dispatch as an official newspaper for legal notices during their opening meeting of 2014, and once again, during their annual reorganization meetings on the first business day of the New Year, most of the other municipalities in Pike County followed suit. So far, Milford and Matamoras Boroughs, and Westfall, Dingman, Delaware, Shohola, Blooming Grove. Milford and Lehman Townships have made it their business to have the Dispatch as an official newspaper.

So make it your business to keep up with all the news in Pike to print, including official business and legal notices from your town.

To find out where to buy your copy of the county’s official newspaper or to subscribe for home mail delivery, click here.

The Voice Of Pike County
Since 1826

The Pike County Dispatch is not only Pike County's largest circulation weekly newspaper, it is also the oldest.

Founded as the Eagle of the North, it has been in continuous operation reporting news and covering local events since 1826. It is, and always has been, the mainstay in keeping the local citizenry informed. Today, subscribers are as far afield as California and Florida

The Dispatch has covered the historic events that have shaped Pike County for almost as long as that history has been in the making.

Over the years, hometown news has shared pages with national and world events, and world events were sometimes right here in Pike County, Pennsylvania.

Its pages carry news of joy and sorrow, homespun advice, births, deaths, marriages, spats, feuds, political controversy, scandals, murders, heists, social affairs, dedications--in short, all the news in Pike to print.

Look for the Pike County Dispatch at local news dealers, and read all about it!

First Northern Bank Slated For XtraMart Site

MILFORD — The local XtraMart Convenience Store is shutting down, and the First Northern Bank and Trust Company of Palmerton, Pa., is slated to be the new tenant, according to Lorraine Gregory, spokesperson for the company that leases the property to XtraMart’s parent company, Global Partners, L.P., of Connecticut. Gregory said that XtraMart stopped selling gas at their West Harford and 5th Street location on Aug. 2. Workers drained fuel from all underground tanks on the property last week, and the company plans to remove the eight gasoline pumps and one diesel pump shortly thereafter.

Gregory said that Global would soon excavate and remove all the fuel tanks and begin required environmental testing for potential underground pollutants. According to Gregory, as soon as Global gets a clean environmental bill of health, they would be free to start the permit process from the regulatory agencies, including Milford Borough, to prepare the property for bank use. Gregory estimated that with permits in hand, the building could be renovated for bank use most likely in a few months. The Global spokesperson was unavailable for comment at press time.

A First Northern Bank and Trust Company spokesperson verified on Monday morning that the bank is planning on opening a branch at that site, but that that the details on the range of services would be forthcoming.

 
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