the north face hoody Evidence posted to Facebook in Sampsell homicide
LEWISBURG A surprise allegation of discovery evidence in Justin Richard’s murder case having been posted to social media spurred a Union County judge to threaten sanctions for a potential violation of an existing gag order.
Judge Michael Sholley called for a hearing to be held Dec. 14 after District Attorney Pete Johnson claimed transcripts, police reports and photos of prosecution witness Amanda Kratzer were posted and since deleted from an unnamed Facebook page.
“It seems to me we need a full hearing on this,” Sholley said during a motions hearing Thursday in county court. The judge requested Johnson subpoena the page’s unidentified creator. “I will determine if contempt sanctions are appropriate,” Sholley said.
The hearing will be held the same day as a separate proceeding regarding the defense’s request for a subpoena deadline for records sought in the case, including Kratzer’s medical records. Sholley challenged Dennehy as to the need for such records. Dennehy said they’re necessary as the defense seeks evidence to measure Kratzer’s competence and potentially request her testimony be barred as a result.
Richard has been jailed since June 2012 as a suspect in the murder of Randy Sampsell. Originally charged as a conspirator with second and third degree murder, Richard now heads towards a trial on first degree murder charges filed in December 2015 after Kratzer told police Richard confessed to shooting Sampsell himself.
‘I suggest you tell your client ‘
The motion to lift the gag order was requested Tuesday and was an expected portion of the hearing. Accusations that it had potentially been violatedwere not.
Defense attorney Michael Dennehy denied any direct involvement by his client or the team behind the defense’s case regarding the alleged social media postings. Like Sholley, Dennehy said he’d only just learned about the accusation. He pointed out that Johnson had not filed a motion alleging the gag order was violated.
“It wasn’t Justin Richard. It certainly wasn’t anybody connected with the defense investigation or the legal team,” Dennehy said.
“I’m not really sure what was there,” he said.
Sholley delayed a decision on the defense’s request to lift the gag order barring principals involved in the case from sharing privileged information or from speaking with the media on case specifics. The gag order was originally requested by Richard’s defense attorney and granted in April.
Dennehy sought the order to ensure his client a fair trial but said he since agreed with Richard that the bounds installed by the gag order would be a detriment.
“We realized the concerns really weren’t present and really the order shouldn’t have been requested in the first place,” Dennehy said.
The request to lift seemed inconsistent since decisions on motions to either move the trial out of the county or bring in an out of county jury have not been ruled on, Sholley said. Dennehy replied that the defense was prepared to attempt to pick a “fair and partial jury” in Union County. The outstanding motions, he said, may not be necessary. At the moment, jury selection is set for Feb. 27, Dennehy noted.
Johnson told Sholley the alleged social media postings were proof the gag order should remain.
It will stay in place, Sholley said, at least until the hearing next month. Failure to abide could mean a contempt violation and possible jail time.
“I suggest you tell your client if that information is coming from him, Mr.
“There is information state police has that has not been turned over,” Dennehy said.
“That’s not accurate,” Johnson replied.
The defense seeks any record written notes, transcripts, video or audio recordings from police interviews of both Richard and Kratzer by Pennsylvania State Police and police in Virginia, where the two were taken into custody in the days after Sampsell was discovered dead in his Buffalo Township home.
They also want Kratzer’s medical records.
“How are the health records relevant?” Sholley asked Dennehy.
“I have some serious questions as to whether (Kratzer) is competent to be a witness in this case and I’m entitled to explore that,” Dennehy ultimately replied after pressed further by Sholley.
DA: Defense ‘fishing’
Kratzer’s delivered intrigue to this continually winding, unpredictable case.
Kratzer and Richard were in a short lived relationship leading up to Sampsell’s murder. She faced a felony conspiracy charge in connection with the case but later took a plea deal: probation on a misdemeanor charge in exchange for her cooperation.