Former county D.A. gives up judgeship he won last year

------ Original Message ----- 
From: Diane Manning 
Sent: Tuesday, July 13, 2004 12:00 PM

Just a little reminder to those of you who might have forgotten - this was the DA that was on Michael's case.   At the time of Michael's trial he had "dreams" of upgrading his career & "thought" Michael would be an another one of his "stepping stones."  Now, he's  a common criminal just like all those he put away - some truly not as deserving of the punishments as he is!! It will  be interesting to see what the Judicial Conduct Board does now that the court proceedings are completed.       Diane 

                Pocono Record Writer

WILKES-BARRE - Monroe County Judge Mark Pazuhanich bowed his head and fought back tears as he chose not to fight the criminal child molestation charges he raced in Luzerne County.

Monday morning, as his trial was set to begin, Pazuhanich gave up his seat on the Monroe Court of Common Pleas by pleading "no contest" to misdemeanor charges of corrupting a minor, endangering the welfare of a child, and two counts of indecent assault. He also did not contest a charge of public drunkenness, a summary offense.

Luzerne County Judge Joseph Augello immediately sentenced Pazuhanich to 10 years probation and ordered him to undergo a sexual offender's evaluation. Pazuhanich must register as a sexual offender under Megan's Law for 10 years. Augello ordered him to have no contact with the victim, his 10-year-old daughter, unless he wins court approval to see her.

Pazuhanich, 47, an acknowledged alcoholic, is also prohibited from drinking alcohol or taking any drugs that aren't prescribed for him. He was ordered to pay a fine of $500 for public drunkenness. 

Pazuhanich told the judge he didn't want to see his daughter have to take the stand. "Knowing how much pain I've caused, certainly starting with my daughter . . . I'll have to contend with that for the rest of my life and I can't change that," said Pazuhanich, with a quivering, almost inaudible voice. "I'm sparing my daughter from having to testify in this court.

I'll spend the rest of my life trying to make this up to my family, friends and my daughter," Pazuhanich said, before taking a break to cry. "She and I had a great relationship up until the 29th." 

Several witnesses were prepared to testify that on Nov. 29, 2003, they saw Pazuhanich molest the girl during a Hilary Duff concert at the F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre, according to Luzerne County Assistant District Attorney Ingrid Cronin. Duff's head security guard and Pazuhanich's daughter were among those scheduled to testify. 

Pazuhanich's lawyer, John Rogers Carroll of Philadelphia, said Pazuhanich had taken a muscle relaxant before the concert. Police reported he was extremely intoxicated. 

Carroll said Pazuhanich was under intense pressure from the judicial race that he won just weeks before. Pazuhanich was serving as Monroe County's district attorney at the time of his arrest. A notary public swore him in as judge on Jan. 5, but he served as judge only a few weeks in a diminished capacity until taking administrative leave in early February. He has continued to draw his $124,000-per-year salary. 

Pazuhanich, who came to court with his girlfriend, Linda Terrell, told the judge he hasn't been drinking since his arrest, and that being sober has allowed him to "retain any sanity I have left."

Luzerne County District Attorney David Lupas said he is satisfied with the outcome of the case.

A no-contest plea is different from a guilty plea in that the plea itself is not an admission of guilt. No-contest pleas can be suppressed as background evidence in some civil cases, while guilty pleas and criminal convictions cannot.

Lupas said that by making the plea, Pazuhanich was saying, "I'm not contesting the charges." He believes the pleas show that Pazuhanich has accepted responsibility for assaulting his daughter.

Lupas noted 10 years of probation is within sentencing guidelines, and that the loss of Pazuhanich's judgeship is a severe consequence. 

According to Lupas, Pazuhanich's ex-wife, Karen Lenskold, is pleased that Pazuhanich spared their daughter from testifying. The girl lives with her mother in New Jersey.

"Most of the focus has been on the defendant, but this is about a 10-year-old child," said Lupas, who noted that the child has been receiving counseling. 

Although Pazuhanich has removed himself from his judge seat, the state Judicial Conduct Board is not dropping its case against him. Earlier this year, the Judicial Conduct Board asked the state Court of Judicial Discipline to remove Pazuhanich from office. The Court of Judicial Discipline said it would wait until the conclusion of Pazuhanich's trial to decide on the removal issue.

Joseph Massa Jr., chief counsel for the Judicial Conduct Board, said the board still wants its own trial, and will seek a lifetime ban for Pazuhanich, "making him ineligible to hold judicial office in the future."