Trials & Litigation

Charged with perjury along with client, lawyer is taken off murder case over defendant's objection


A Pennsylvania lawyer can no longer represent the defendant in a capital murder case because both she and her client have been charged with trying to obstruct the prosecution.

Although defendant Hugo Selenski still wanted court-appointed criminal defense attorney Shelley Centini to represent him in the Luzerne County case and was willing to waive the conflict, “This conflict is a bear trap. It’s inescapable. It’s unwaivable. Her representation is compromised,” argued assistant district attorney Jarrett Ferentino.

Judge Fred Pieranton agreed, ruling Monday that Centini was off the case. That led to a new problem: Her court-appointed co-counsel, Edward Rymsza, said he is not able to proceed alone as a March 3 trial looms in the double-murder case, but Selenski doesn’t want a continuance, reports the Citizens’ Voice.

“I’ll state for the record Mr. Selenski is vehemently opposed to it. I understand that. I respect his position,” Rymsza told the judge. “But I’m the sole attorney of record. I can’t proceed. Perhaps the court does need to discuss with Mr. Selenski his right to proceed pro se.”

Pieranton set a new trial date of May 19, leaving unresolved for now the issue of who will defend Selenski there.

The 40-year-old is accused of killing a couple in 2002. Their bodies were found the following year in the yard of his Kingston Township home. He, Centini, 38, and a private defense investigator now face multiple criminal charges in a Dauphin County perjury and obstruction case after being indicted by a grand jury in a claimed conspiracy to pressure prosecution witnesses in the murder case.

Responding to the charges against his law partner, attorney Barry Dyller provided a written statement defending her to WNEP last month. Including a comment by a former Selenski criminal defense lawyer, it reads:

“I have complete confidence Shelley is innocent of all charges. I’m sad for Shelley, I’m sad for the Commonwealth itself, that it chose to charge an innocent person.”

“I know [sic] Shelley Centini for quite a number of years, I know and I have employed Jim Sulima as an investigator. I have always found them to be very ethical, very aggressive, a very good lawyer and a very good investigator,” said Demetrius Fannick.

Fannick represented Selenski when he was acquitted in another double-murder case in 2006.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Defense lawyer charged with perjury, along with client in homicide case and private investigator”

The Dispatch: “Selenski’s lead lawyer removed”

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