431. Mating habits of the domestic judge, Pennsylvania version

Pennsylvanias Judge C. Joseph Rehkamp was foolish enough to drink the water at the Luzerne County Courthouse, that ill-proportioned lump of architectural notions, when he was persuaded to venture down from his roost in Perry County to fill in for the gangster judges caught collecting “finders fees” for selling children. 

We already learned the lamentable results of Judge Rehkamps ill-advised sip.  (See post 417.)  But the domestic violence charges against him were dropped when — all together now — his wife declined to testify against him at preliminary hearing.

According to the Scranton Times-Tribune,

[Magisterial] Judge Whittaker overruled prosecutors who argued he could compel the victim to testify and/or allow the case to proceed based on the testimony of the arresting officer and Mrs. Rehkamps 18-year-old son, Lee Elliot Egenlauf, who allegedly witnessed the assault.

The testimony of an eyewitness isnt enough to establish probable cause?!? Let that be a lesson to all you young judges out there: always be nice to the magistrates, even if like Pennsylvanias magisterial judges theyre not necessarily lawyers, because you never know when theyll be in a position to return the favor.

18-year-old Lee saved his mother when the judge was strangling her, according to this Wilkes-Barre Citizens Voice story, which also contains the magistrates charmingly fatutous metaphysical flight and the prosecutors untoppable comeback:

Magisterial District Judge Donald L. Whittaker dismissed the charges moments after Valerie Rehkamp, sitting on the witness stand, said she did not want to proceed.

Assistant District Attorney Nancy Violi had subpoenaed Mrs. Rehkamp and other witnesses and asked Whittaker to allow her a chance to question them.

Whittaker refused.

“No victim, no crime, the case is dismissed” Whittaker said.

“If that were the rule, wed never prosecute a homicide case in Luzerne County,” Violi said.

The Citizens Voice adds this interesting detail about the first prelim:

Rehkamps defense attorney, William Costopoulos, told the Voice that Rehkamp and his current wife, Valerie, were discussing a financial arrangement under which she would drop criminal charges and they would move for a divorce. …

Valerie Rehkamp, 50, initially agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, then refused to testify at Rehkamps Feb. 16 preliminary hearing.

We can do this divorce the easy way or the hard way.  Its up to you, Valerie.  Is testifying at the prelim really worth years of hellish litigation? 

Anyway, nothing daunted, the prosecutor refiled charges, adding a bit more detail and asking for a new magistrate (a real one this time, please):

Judge Charles Joseph Rehkamp admitted to grabbing his wife, Valerie, by the neck and pushing her into a chair during an argument at their Plymouth Twp. home on Jan. 16, a police affidavit says. …

The affidavit filed Tuesday includes … an allegation that police photographed red marks on his wifes neck.

It all happened on the couples first anniversary, sweetly enough.

The judge was able to see the silver lining in this dark cloud: he used his suspension from office as an excuse for skipping alimony payments to his first wife. 

According to court documents, Rehkamps assets include: an investment retirement account at a Juniata bank worth $165,580 as of a Dec. 31, 2008 accounting; an investment portfolio with Oppenheimer and Co. of unknown value; a Porsche 911 sports car; $28,000 worth of jewelry he purchased on a single day in 2008 and 45 acres of land in Perry County.

The judge reportedly shelled out $218,000 to pay off his daughters tax debt, which might show admirable familial loyalty, though if I were the first wifes lawyer Id be very suspicious.  Maybe where the daughter lives its customary for tax officials to require first-degree relatives to pony up in cash rather than establishing a payment plan with the taxpayer herself.  Then again….

Nonetheless, there is a somber side to the story.  That Porsche.  That $28,000 in jewelry bought on a single day during the months before his second marriage.  Im afraid the diagnosis is unavoidable: late-onset midlife-crisis clichedom.

But the judge isnt taking the refiling of charges lying down: today he filed a motion to dismiss, claiming selective prosecution.  After all, other husbands in Luzerne County are allowed to choke their wives, so whys the prosecution picking on him?

Read more detail on Legal News Directory – Judiciary

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