Criminal Justice

Charges dismissed against defense lawyer accused of witness intimidation in murder case

A Pennsylvania magistrate judge on Wednesday dismissed all charges against a criminal defense lawyer and investigator accused of witness intimidation in a murder case, the Citizens’ Voice reports.

Hugo Selenski, who is in prison on a separate home invasion and robbery charge, is accused of murdering a couple in 2002. He gave his now-former lawyer, Shelley Centini, and an investigator letters to show to prosecution witnesses in his case. Defense attorneys for Centini and investigator James Sulima say that these witnesses are longtime friends of Selenski, and that the aim was to clear up inconsistencies in statements the witnesses had given. Prosecutors allege that Selenski, in the letters, encouraged witnesses to lie. Centini and Sulima were removed from Selenski’s case when the charges were filed.

“With all due respect, I am not convinced the commonwealth has enough evidence to hold [the lawyer and investigator] to court on any charges,” said Dauphin County Judge David Judy. “The commonwealth can refile, but for now the case is dismissed.”

Attorney Al Flora, who represented Centini, had called the case “a grave threat” both to the state’s criminal defense bar and defendants’ constitutional right to legal representation. He also argued that there was a double standard concerning what the government does and the restrictions it is trying to put on defense lawyers.

“The conduct they do with witnesses is far more offensive than anything Ms. Centini did,” said Flora of police and prosecutors. “They tell witnesses they are lying. They threaten them with prosecution. They have a gun. They have a badge. What they’re saying is, ‘Defense counsel, don’t you dare try to interview our witnesses.’”

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