Tuesday, April 26, 2022

"Commander Mike" Disbarred

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has accepted the consent disbarment of a former judge.

PennLive reported 

Michael E. Schechterly, a suspended Perry County district justice and former church youth group leader who came under police scrutiny several times in recent years for questionable conduct with kids, was barred from office permanently and sentenced to spend two months in prison by a Cumberland County judge Tuesday.

Schechterly’s sentence of 60 days to 23 months resulted from guilty pleas in two separate cases: Official oppression and obstruction of justice counts stemming from threats directed to a woman making complaints of sexual abuse by a constable Schechterly’s office worked with, at a time when the woman had cases pending in his court; and a corruption of minors charge stemming from Schechterly’s behavior with a youth he claimed he was mentoring.

Schechterly’s lawyer Brian Perry asked that his client be spared jail time, Jessica Brewbaker, in issuing the prison sentence, said she felt incarceration is warranted for Schechterly if for no other reason than that his actions “had diminished the confidence of the entire community in the system of justice.”
Brewbaker’s order leaves Schechterly , 59, facing nearly three years of parole supervision upon his release, during which time he is permitted no unsupervised contact with children, and it requires him to undergo a sex offender evaluation. He is also barred from ever holding a judicial office again and forfeits any pension benefits.
Schechterly apologized in court to his victims, his family and friends, and the broader Perry County community, and said he takes “full responsibility” for his actions and is ready to accept the consequences. But he also tried to offer an explanation for why these things happened.
On the intimidation case, Schechterly told the victim - who was in court - that his intention at the time was to try to learn more about the claims she was making. He said he now understands that given his position of power over her at the time that telling her she could face jail time if she was lying left her feeling intimidated, and “I do apologize for the hurt that it caused you.”
The victim in the witness intimidation case never reported the constable to any other authorities after the meeting with Schechterly. She only came forward to police last year, after news coverage of Schechterly’s November 2020 arrest on several corruption of minors counts.
In those cases, court records stated that after getting a tip about Schechterly’s activities in 2019, a Pennsylvania State Police investigation turned up numerous incidents in which Schechterly had boys in his office after hours - one surveillance video showed two boys under 10 years of age on his lap, watching a movie; sleepovers both there and at his home; and one instance in which there was an allegation of inappropriate touching.
Schechterly - who was regularly involved with kids as a leader in his church’s Royal Rangers youth ministry - had also been investigated in 2015 on separate complaints about spending the night with a group of boys at his court office in Newport. In a subsequent search of his office at that time, police found DVD discs containing pornography, which Schechterly attributed to a porn addiction.
After a review of surveillance tapes from the office in 2015, no charges were filed
Indecent assault and unlawful contact with children charges were withdrawn in light as part of the plea deal/
The minors count Schechterly wound up pleading guilty to stemmed from a 2015 incident in which Schechterly was walking around in his underwear while a non-relative, 12-year-old boy was at his home, and repeatedly playing with or scratched his genitals in the boy’s presence. In court Tuesday, Schechterly - a bachelor with no children of his own - blamed his familiarity with the boy with leading to “careless” behavior around him.
Schechterly, who was elected to his district judge seat in 2011, has been suspended since his 2020 arrest. A lawyer by profession, Schechterly was known as “Commander Mike” at Newport Assembly of God, where he led the church’s Royal Rangers program. It was through the church program that he met the 12-year-old and other boys he was associating with.
State sentencing guidelines on the oppression charge - the most serious that Schechterly pleaded to - called for a minimum term ranging from probation to nine months in prison.
Prosecutor Daniel Dye, with the state Attorney General’s office, called for some jail time in the case, arguing Tuesday that citizens of Perry County gave Schechterly the “gift” of public office, only to see that when he was in power, he abused it. A jail term, Dye said, would help “vindicate the people’s trust in the system” and to show that “when people are given power, it is not theirs to abuse.”
Afterward, though, Dye said the best outcome of Tuesday’s proceeding is that Schechterly is out of office.
“The fact that Michael Schechterly is no longer a judge is good for the people of the Commonwealth and it’s good for our system of justice. So I’m very satisfied,” he said.
After Brewbaker’s order, Schechterly was permitted to give his parents a hug, and then was handcuffed and led out of court for transport to Cumberland County Prison. The case was transferred to Cumberland County’s jurisdiction because of Schechterly’s longtime role in the Perry County courts.
(Mike Frisch)


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