Police: Glen Lyon man pointed gun at officer
NEWPORT TWP. — Police say a Glen Lyon man fired an illegal, sawed-off
shotgun three times outside his residence early Wednesday and then
pointed the weapon at the first police officer who arrived on scene.
Arrest papers say police ordered Daniel Williams IV to the ground,
he was taken into custody and they seized the firearm, a 12-gauge
shotgun with a sawed-off barrel.
Williams, 31, was charged with possessing a prohibited offensive
weapon, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person and
illegal possession of a weapon as a convicted felon relating to
a past burglary.
Investigators say the gunfire erupted just before 4 a.m. during
a fight between Williams and another man over a woman.
Williams had just returned home at 27 Orchard St. with the ex-girlfriend
of Darnell Stokes after a night out at the bar. Stokes was also
staying at the residence. Williams and Stokes got into an argument
and then a physical fight. Police say Williams ordered Stokes to
get all his belongings out of the home.
At that point, Williams went to his pickup truck to retrieve the
gun, arrest papers say. He came inside the house with the gun, pointed
it at Stokes and ordered him outside, police said.
Stokes said he took all his stuff from the residence and waited
outside for a taxi. He then left his belongings and crossed the
street as Williams approached.
Williams came outside and fired two gunshots in the air and then
one into Stokes’ belongings, police said. He then returned inside.
Megan Luongo, the woman identified as the person the men were fighting
over, told police she went into Williams’ daughter’s room during
the incident. She said she and the daughter were “extremely scared”
during the fight.
During questioning, Williams said Stokes tackled him during an altercation,
so he grabbed his gun to threaten Stokes to leave with his belongings,
Williams admitted he shot the gun a few times outside the residence,
but said he did not fire it at Stokes, arrest papers say.
Williams was arraigned by Magisterial District Judge Donald Whittaker,
who ordered Williams to the Luzerne County Correctional Facility
in lieu of $75,000 bail.
mayor and teacher facing charges for allegedly luring teen boys
A former teacher and Nanticoke mayor who served probation for his
guilty plea to fondling a boy in 2003 faces a new set of charges
for allegedly attempting to lure three teenagers into his car by
offering them money, police said.
Edward J. Butkiewicz, 76, of Sandwedge Drive in Mountain Top, faces
five counts each of corruption of minors and luring a child into
a motor vehicle, as well as single counts of resisting arrest and
disorderly conduct. He served as mayor in the mid-1980s and later
on the City Council, and was a Greater Nanticoke Area teacher in
In 2003, he was sentenced to two years of probation on a misdemeanor
indecent assault charge for fondling a 13-year-old boy, who was
a former student.
His sentence was handed down with a stern reprimand from then-Luzerne
County Judge Mark Ciavarella: Its a shame, Mr. Butkiewicz.
In a short period of time you managed to ruin a reputation beyond
reproach. Whatever problems you have, I hope you deal with them.
According to the affidavit in the latest case, a 13-year-old boy
was in the parking lot of an apartment complex on Rock Street in
Newport Township Sunday when Butkiewicz pulled up to him in a silver
Cadillac asking the boy where he could get a drink nearby.
The conversation then quickly turned more personal when
Butkiewicz asked the boy about his private area, the
affidavit says. Butkiewicz allegedly asked to see the boys
private area and added he would do things to the boy
that the boy described as weird.
Butkiewicz gave the boy $3 and offered him more money to get in
the car with him and go for a ride, but the boy refused, the affidavit
says. Butkiewicz left, but noted hed be back. The boy then
went home and told his mother, who called 911.
A search of the vehicles registration led police to identify
More teens allegedly lured
Three days later, on Wednesday, Newport Township police received
a report the same man was again attempting to lure children at the
same apartment building.
A 16-year-old boy told the responding officer Butkiewicz tried to
get him into his vehicle Sunday after asking the teen if he
was gay and he wanted to make money, the affidavit says. The
teen said he was again approached by Butkiewicz on Wednesday. Another
16-year-old said Butkiewicz also asked if he wanted to make
money that day, according to the affidavit.
The two teens brought Butkiewicz to their apartment where they quickly
called 911. As Butkiewicz tried to leave, a juvenile girl blocked
his truck by pretending her car was broke until police arrived,
the affidavit says.
The officer asked Butkiewicz if he was in the area that past Sunday
and gave money to children, and Butkiewicz acknowledged that he
was and that he often gives money to children, the affidavit says.
Butkiewicz allegedly told the officer he was at the apartments because
one of the teens offered to give him a tattoo.
In the affidavit, the officer noted he observed money on the passenger
seat and a protective seat cover over the backseat.
The affidavit further states the arresting officer was cut on his
hand attempting to take a combative Butkiewicz into custody. Butkiewicz
was committed to the Luzerne County Correctional Facility, but was
later released after posting $100,000 bail. A preliminary hearing
is scheduled for Wednesday.
In the 2003 case, Butkiewicz also offered the victim a ride. As
the two drove, Butkiewicz put his hand on the boys shoulder
and rubbed his back. After that, Butkiewicz unbuttoned the teenagers
jeans and began to fondle him. Butkiewicz told police the boy unbuttoned
his own pants and that he grabbed the boys genitals on
The victim subsequently filed a lawsuit against Butkiewicz claiming
he developed emotional problems that requied counseling.
Court records show the parties settled for $10,000.
Clashes with school district
Butkiewicz, who taught six grade, surrendered his teaching license
Years earlier, his clash with the school district over his suspension
drew significant attention when a school board member accused Butkiewicz
of improper conduct in the classroom.
The controversy exploded in 1998 when then-School Board member Terry
Ziolkowski announced that his niece, a student of Butkiewiczs,
heard the teacher use a racial epithet in class. Ziolkowski also
claimed Butkiewicz tugged on students underwear and showed
a movie featuring a topless woman in class.
Butkiewicz argued in a lawsuit against the district that he used
the word in the context of a social studies lesson on slavery, and
that the movie was a history movie with a PG-13 rating. An arbitrator
ruled in 1999 that Butkiewicz should be reinstated and receive back
pay and benefits for the nearly 15-month suspension.
A federal judge threw out the lawsuit in 2001, finding it had no
Police: Former Nanticoke
mayor and teacher tried to lure children
Sarah Scinto - Citizens Voice
Police arrested Edward Butkiewicz, 76, a former mayor and teacher
at Nanticoke area schools, on Wednesday after children along Rock
Street in Glen Lyon reported he had, on multiple occasions, tried
to lure various children into his vehicle by offering them money.
A 13-year-old boy first reported Butkiewicz on July 23, according
to police. The boy told police he was in the parking lot of an apartment
complex when a silver car with a handicap registration tag drove
up to him. The driver, an older male later identified as Butkiewicz,
first asked the boy if there were any bars in the area.
The boy said Butkiewicz then asked about his private area
and if he could see it and said he would do things to him that the
boy called weird, police said.
Butkiewicz offered the boy money to get in his car and go for a
ride and $3 to keep his secret, police said. When the boy refused,
police said Butkiewicz left and told the boy hed be back.
The boy told his mother about the incident and she called 911, police
Police were called back to Rock Street on Wednesday for a report
of the same man trying to lure children into his car, this time
in a burgundy SUV.
A 16-year-old boy told officers Butkiewicz had also approached him
on Sunday and Wednesday. The first time, Butkiewicz drove up to
him at the intersection of Rock and East Main streets and asked
if he was gay and wanted to make money. On Wednesday, the teen said
Butkiewicz drove up at the intersection of West Main and Market
streets in Glen Lyon and asked him and another 16-year-old male
if they wanted to make money.
The teens told police Butkiewicz followed them into the Rock Street
apartment complex where they called 911 and told the 13-year-old
boy and his sister.
Butkiewicz started shouting for the 13-year-old, then grabbed one
of the 16-year-olds by the arm, police said.
Butkiewicz tried to leave the apartment complex but a juvenile female
and a man pulled their car in front of his, pretending it had broken
down to stall Butkiewicz until police arrived.
Butkiewicz admitted to being in the neighborhood in a silver car
on Sunday and admitted to giving the 13-year-old boy money. He denied
trying to lure the boy into his car, police said.
When police cuffed Butkiewicz, he resisted and pushed back against
the arresting officer, cutting his hand.
Butkiewicz was charged with attempted luring, corruption of minors,
disorderly conduct and resisting arrest and sent to Luzerne County
prison in lieu of $100,000 bail.
Butkiewicz, a retired elementary school teacher, served two years
of probation after he was arrested for indecent assault and corruption
of minors in 2003.
In that case, a former student of Butkiewiczs told police
he had pulled up to him in a white Jeep and asked him if he needed
a ride. The boy accepted because he thought Butkiewicz was a nice
guy, police said.
The boy told police Butkiewicz touched his genitals while they drove
through Nanticoke and Hanover Twp.
Butkiewicz pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of indecent assault
in the 2003 case and was sentenced to two years probation. By that
time, he had served 30 years as a teacher and served terms as a
Nanticoke City councilman and mayor.
Butkiewicz will appear for a preliminary hearing on his recent charges
on Aug. 2 at 1 p.m. before Magisterial District Judge Donald Whittaker.
Ex-Newport Twp. manager Zika avoids jail,
to spend 24 months on house arrest
A former Newport Township manager who bilked the township out of
more than $160,000 was spared prison time Monday, instead getting
24 months on house arrest.
Richard V. Zika, 72, was also sentenced to five years of probation.
Zika’s age and medical conditions factored in Luzerne County Judge
David Lupas’ decision not to lock him up.
“I’m sorry for what I did,” Zika said in front of Lupas. “Especially
to the board of commissioners who put their trust in me … I let
Defense attorney Paul Ackourey previously said the $160,181 theft
was because of Zika’s medical issues. He suffers from problems ranging
from diabetes to sleep apnea and possibly Parkinson’s disease. Ackourey
said Zika stole so he could pay for his health insurance and out-of-pocket
expenses associated with his treatments.
The terms of his sentence were agreed to by all parties, including
Newport Township, which was represented by current Township Manager
Peter Wanchisin. There were several other township residents in
attendance, including Kelli Valaitis and Palmira Miller.
“I’m very happy,” Wanchisin said afterward. “Justice was served.”
Lupas earlier ordered Zika to repay $59,100 to the township and
$55,800 to Travelers Insurance, Newport’s insurance company. The
remaining restitution will be repaid to the township through the
county’s probation and parole department.
Zika’s salary, listed in the township’s 2016 budget, was $42,350.
Zika and his wife, Bernice, have sold their home to pay for most
of the restitution. The couple have a combined monthly income of
$1,871 with most of it coming from Social Security payments.
“This was a hardship on Mr. Zika’s family,” Ackourey said. “Just
because Mr. Zika is guilty, his family is not.”
Ackourey said Zika was a “model citizen” before the thefts.
Zika resigned in April 2016 after commissioners confronted him about
several checks he’d endorsed to himself from the township refuse
and recycling accounts between 2008 and 2016.
Attorney seeks leniency for ex-Newport
Twp. manager to be sentenced for theft
With nearly three quarters of his $160,181 in restitution paid,
former Newport Township manager Richard Zika wants to avoid prison
so he can pay back the rest of the money he admitted stealing on
the job over an eight-year period.
Paperwork filed Friday in Luzerne County Court seeks probation for
the ailing Zika, 72, who’s scheduled for sentencing next week on
a felony theft charge.
Defense attorney Paul Ackourey linked the theft to Zika’s medical
problems, noting it’s marred his otherwise “stellar reputation”
earned as a parent and grandparent and from years serving the community
through organizations such as Junior Achievement, Little League,
Scouting, hunter education and Masonic activities.
“While not offered as an excuse for his criminal behavior, much
of the defendant’s criminality can be tied to the expenses of maintaining
health insurance coverage and paying out of pocket expenses associated
with medical treatment,” Ackourey wrote.
According to the filing, Zika suffers from a range of medical problems
including diabetes, sleep apnea, morbid obesity and possibly Parkinson’s
Disease. In addition, he is on oxygen and is prescribed a “plethora
But equally as pressing is his financial condition. Zika and his
wife, Bernice, have a combined monthly income of $1,871 with most
of it coming from Social Security payments. When compared with their
monthly household expenses of $2,525, they come up short, the filing
Still Zika has been able to make restitution of $115,000 by selling
his house, Ackourey said. The township has been made whole with
a payment of $59,181 and the township’s insurance company, Travelers
Insurance Co. received $55,818, leaving a balance of $45,181 payable
to the county Probation and Parole Office.
Given Zika’s age, health and finances Ackourey said his client will
likely reach out to others to pay off the balance.
“I would think he would need the assistance of friends and family,”
Some have written letters of support for the court to consider when
imposing Zika’s sentence. “The letters further attest to defendant’s
strong sense of obligation and responsibility,” Ackourey wrote.
Zika’s sentencing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Monday by Luzerne County
Judge David Lupas.
Officials: Dangerous items being placed
on Newport Township trails
Metal tripod devices like this one have been found positioned throughout
off-road trails in Newport Township.
Police are searching for an individual or persons who are placing
dangerous homemade items throughout the off-road trails of the community,
township officials said Monday.
During the township commissioners meeting, township Manager Peter
Wanchisen had a homemade metal tripod-like device with pointed ends
and demonstrated it for the two dozen residents in attendance.
“No matter which way they stick it, it points up,” he said. A news
release from the commissioners states the metal items are being
placed in mud puddles or under carpets.
“If a kid falls on one, it could kill him,” Police Chief Jeremy
Blank said his force has also found fish hooks hanging from boards
in the trees.
The off-road trails on which the devices were found are co-operation
lands, Blank said. The areas are open for hiking or fishing but
are closed to all-terrain vehicles.
Whoever is responsible for placing the dangerous items along the
trails “will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” the
news release says.
In other business:
• Palmira Miller told commissioners 65 families received food from
the Newport Township food collection.
• A spring cleanup will be held in the township from 9 a.m. to noon
May 13. Volunteers are to meet at the Newport Township Municipal
Building on Kirmar Parkway.
• Wanchisen said township employee heart and lung insurance would
be transferred to DGK Insurance beginning Aug. 1, saving the community
Newport Township Commissioners next meet at 6 p.m. June 5 in the
township Municipal Building on Kirmar Parkway.
Newport Twp. official relieved SCI-Retreat
For the first time in weeks, Newport Township Commissioner Paul
Czapracki was able to breathe a sigh of relief Thursday morning
when word broke that State Correctional Institution at Retreat would
remain open and its 400 jobs would be saved.
One of those jobs is his. He works there in maintenance.
“I’ve been sick to my stomach. You didn’t know what your future
was. It would be like starting over,” Czapracki said.
But more worrisome, he said, was the economic fate of Newport Township,
which includes the Glen Lyon section that was ranked last year as
the most distressed part of the state.
State Sen. John Yudichak, who has deep roots in the township, and
state Rep. Gerald Mullery, who lives there, broke the news Thursday
morning after speaking to members of Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration.
SCI-Retreat, the largest employer by far in Newport Township, was
one of five prisons being considered for two closures. Since the
closure plan was floated on Jan. 6, Yudichak and Mullery have strongly
advocated against shuttering SCI-Retreat and to keep the 400 family
sustaining jobs in Newport Township.
“We know most of these people. They are not just state workers.
They are not faceless names,” Yudichak said. “There hasn’t been
a day that went by that we haven’t made the case for SCI-Retreat.
Today we got a victory.”
Mullery estimated he personally knows 200 of the SCI-Retreat workers,
many who also live and pay taxes in Newport Township. If those jobs
were sent to other prisons in the state, it would have crippled
the township, he said.
“The last thing we needed was another financial hit to our hometown,”
focuses on safety
Eric Mark - Citizens Voice
A public forum Tuesday on the potential closure of State Correctional
Institution at Retreat focused on the potential danger to corrections
officers and inmates.
Don Williams takes that issue personally. His son, Eric Williams,
was killed in the line of duty as a corrections officer at U.S.
Penitentiary-Canaan in Wayne County in 2013.
On Tuesday, Don Williams led the forum at Luzerne County Community
College devoted to keeping SCI-Retreat open. He implored Gov. Tom
Wolf not to close SCI-Retreat Newport Townships largest
employer or other state prisons as a cost-cutting measure.
The state Department of Corrections on Jan. 6 issued a list of five
state prisons, including SCI-Retreat, two of which could be closed
to cut expenses from the state budget.
Closing prisons and moving inmates to other correctional institutions
with empty beds would put more corrections officers and inmates
at closer quarters where bad things can happen, Williams
Weve established there is going to be overcrowding,
he said. Its a formula for disaster.
Williams noted that when his son was killed by an inmate wielding
a home-made weapon, three things stood out: He was alone, he was
unarmed and the prison was overcrowded.
The greater the number of inmates a corrections officer must supervise,
the greater the chance of an inmate attack on an officer, according
to Williams, who is president of Voices of Joe, an advocacy group
that lobbies for improved working conditions and safety for corrections
Altering the staff ratio by 1 percent will increase assaults
by 30 percent, said Shane Fausey, vice president of Voices
Fausey asked the many corrections officers in attendance if they
had ever been attacked by an inmate. More than a dozen hands instantly
shot up into the air.
What do you think the end result will be? if state prisons
fill to capacity or beyond, Fausey asked.
Fausey and Williams questioned whether closing state prisons would
save as much money as Wolf projected or even save anything
at all, after the final accounting is done.
All it would take is one riot for the prison consolidation plan
to wind up costing more than it saves, Fausey said.
He cited the days-long riot at Camp Hill state prison in 1989 as
a bad precedent. It cost $14 million to repair the damage and clean
up after the disturbance, he said.
Thats a far cry from the pennies they are going to save
by closing prisons, Fausey said.
There could be a societal cost as well, Williams said. If prison
populations reach or exceed maximum, parole boards might release
some inmates early to ease overcrowding, he said.
One of my biggest fears is they are going to release people
into society with no plan for how to deal with them, Williams
Prison consolidation and overcrowding would impact the many inmates
who require mental health treatment, according to Tuesdays
panel which included state Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Newport
Township, state Sen. John Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, Luzerne
County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis and county Manager
How many of these inmates are going to get this treatment,
which we are required to give them? Salavantis asked.
Williams suggested that denying inmates mental health treatment
could be cause for federal authorities to intervene.
The panel unanimously supported Yudichaks call for Wolf to
delay making a decision on closing prisons. As of now that decision
is scheduled for Jan. 26, with the affected prisons to close by
This has been driven by the budget, not driven by safety,
closure would devastate Nanticoke area
It will be bad news for Greater
Nanticoke Area School District if State Correctional Institution
at Retreat closes as part of a state prison consolidation.
That was the message hammered home at a Friday press conference
by state lawmakers, district officials and corrections officers
who work at SCI-Retreat, which houses 1,100 inmates and employs
more than 400 workers on the prison grounds off U.S. Route 11 in
The closure of SCI-Retreat, and possibly SCI-Waymart in Wayne County
or SCI-Frackville in Schuylkill County, would have a devastating
impact on the economy of Northeastern Pennsylvania and especially
communities in the Greater Nanticoke Area, said state Sen. John
Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township.
The three prisons are on a list of five state correctional institutions
targeted for possible closure as a cost-cutting measure, the state
Department of Corrections announced last week.
Gov. Tom Wolf has said he wants to focus on education rather than
prisons, Yudichak said.
The senator, speaking in a conference room at his alma mater, Nanticoke
High School, described that concept as a false choice.
Life is not that simple, Yudichak said. Crime
still exists. Drugs remain a problem.
Taxpayers should not be forced to choose between safe streets and
quality schools, Yudichak said.
Yudichak and state Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Newport Township, on Friday
continued their week-long rally in support of SCI-Retreat, noting
that Wolf and state Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel overestimate
the cost savings that closing prisons would realize.
According to Yudichak and Mullery:
SCI-Retreat is the second-largest employer in Greater Nanticoke
Area, behind only Luzerne County Community College.
If the prison closes, the school district would lose about
90 families and 200 students, resulting in a loss of about $100,000
in tax revenue.
The losses could force district officials to cut programs
and services, such as a pre-kindergarten program that district Superintendent
Ronald Grevera said the district would like to expand rather than
About 350 SCI-Retreat employees live in Luzerne County, so
most school districts in the county would be impacted if the prison
I am not sure how we would overcome the loss of revenue,
Four corrections officers at SCI-Retreat, all fathers of children
who attend district schools, sat next to the officials gathered
at the conference table.
The men and their families face harrowing uncertainty about their
future, said Mark Truszkowski of the PA State Corrections Officers
The Department of Corrections has guaranteed jobs somewhere in the
state to corrections officers who currently work at prisons that
will close, but that will require officers to either relocate or
commute long distances, Truszkowski said.
That will affect the officers children and families, according
We are hurting the developmental stages of these children,
Mullery questioned the timetable established by Wolf to decide which
prisons will close.
That decision will be made on Jan. 26, Wetzel said last week.
There is no magic to (that) date, Mullery said.
He and Yudichak urged the governor to extend the deadline and make
decisions on potentially closing prisons as part of the state budgeting
process, which will last throughout the first half of 2017.
All we are asking is to extend the deadline, Yudichak
The fight to keep SCI-Retreat open will continue for the 12 days
until that deadline arrives.
The state House of Representatives Northeast Delegation will send
a letter to Wolf expressing dismay at the governors
plan to close prisons, Mullery said.
The letter will urge Wolf to delay the decision until public hearings
are held, at which those affected by potential prison closings may
testify, according to Mullery.
Also, busloads of corrections officers plan to attend a hearing
in Harrisburg on Jan. 23, at which three Senate committees will
review the plan to potentially close state prisons, according to
We are going to pack the place, he said.
Yudichak, Mullery say closing SCI Retreat
would hurt education at GNA
State Sen. John Yudichak said Friday if Gov. Tom Wolf cares more
about schools than prisons, he should consider the adverse impact
closing the State Correctional Institute at Retreat would have on
the quality of education in the Greater Nanticoke Area School District.
Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, and state Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Newport
Township, held another news conference on the governors plan
to close two state prisons this time, the two legislators
were at their alma mater, the districts high school. SCI Retreat
is on a list of five state prisons from which two are scheduled
to be chosen for closure on Jan. 26.|
Yudichak and Mullery and other state legislators have been asking
the governor and Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel
to extend the deadline to allow for more time to gather information,
such as the economic impact any closing would have on the host communities.
Gov. Wolf wants to invest in schools, not prisons, but that
is a false choice, Yudichak said. Pennsylvanias
taxpayers want to invest in both. Closing SCI-Retreat will jeopardize
$1.6 million in funding for the Nanticoke School District and threatens
important educational programs like Pre-K instruction.
Joining Yudichak and Mullery were Dr. Ronald Grevera, superintendent
of the Greater Nanticoke Area School District, district school board
members, and five members of the Pennsylvania State Corrections
Officers Association who work at SCI Retreat and whose children
attend school in the district.
A closure of SCI-Retreat means we could lose 90 families and
more than 200 students, Grevera said. We cannot absorb
such a staggering exodus of families and students, as well as the
second largest employer within the district. It is simple
math if the prison closes, secure funding for our schools
will be undermined.
Yudichak and Mullery stressed that the prison is integral to the
entire community, both as an employer and as an important part of
the criminal justice system.
The 139 heroin overdoses in Luzerne County demonstrates that
drug abuse remains a problem in the county and crime remains an
issue in our community, Yudichak said.
Mullery said no one knows when the dominoes will stop falling
if the governor closes prisons prematurely.
I have yet to hear a compelling reason why this decision needs
to be made on Jan. 26, let alone a compelling reason to target three
prisons in Northeastern Pennsylvania, Mullery said.
Yudichak said closing SCI Retreat would result in a loss of $100,000
in tax revenue to the school district. He said the pre-K program
at Nanticoke costs approximately $190,000 per year. He said the
loss of revenue would not only have an immediate effect on the program,
it could be lost.
Grevera said any cuts to the pre-K program would have a significant,
measurable negative effect on the quality of education in the district.
He said elementary students have been found to be better at reading
and math because of the pre-K program.|
We should be expanding our pre-K program, not cutting it,
Grevera said. With a potential loss of $1.6 million in funding,
Im not sure how we would ever recover from that.
The DOC and Wolf Administration has been holding meetings to determine
the economic impact closing a prison would mean to each of the five
possible areas. Yudichak and Mullery have estimated closing SCI
Retreat would see a $57.3 million hit to the regions economy.
The legislators have asked that Wolf delay a decision on prison
closings and resume budget talks, with the hope that enough cuts
can be found to avoid significant measures, such as closing two
prisons. Some 2,500 inmates would have to be relocated and about
800 employees reassigned if two prisons are shut down.
Yudichak cited Northeastern Pennsylvanias 6.3 percent unemployment
rate, stating that closing SCI Retreat would see that number rise
Yudichak and Mullery said they feel state legislators have been
shut out of the decision-making process.
These are tax dollars, Yudichak said. We should
be a part of this process.
Mullery said there are some 2,000 to 2,500 state inmates currently
housed in county correctional facilities. He said those inmates,
if returned to state facilities, would eliminate the need to close
If this is a numbers issue, as Secretary Wetzel has stated,
then that would resolve that, Yudichak said. There has
also been talk of the state accepting federal inmates. We will have
a new president on Jan. 20. We should allow for more time to see
if that agreement can be reached.
Former Newport Twp. manager’s court case
A former Newport Township manger waived formal arrangement in December
on charges he pocked over $150,000 from the township’s accounts,
according to court documents.
Richard Zika, 72, of Hanover Township, was manager of Newport Township
for 10 years, when he suddenly resigned after three township commissioners
approached him regarding a total of $156,982 missing from township
The move automatically enters a not guilty plea for Zika.
In August, state police charged Zika with felony counts of theft
by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property, forgery and fraudulent
destruction of computers, as well as a misdemeanor count of tampering
The criminal complaint states:
An internal audit noticed a discrepancy in the refuse/recycling
accounts for the township.
Commissioners Paul Czapracki, Michael Roke and John Zyla then met
with Zika. The former manager was asked to explain a number of checks
that he had written and endorsed to himself. He allegedly told the
commissioners: “I got some financial problems at my house.”
Officials also alerted the township’s police department, who transferred
the case to state police in Wyoming.
During his preliminary arrangement, District Judge Joseph Halesy
set bail at an unsecured $25,000 unsecured.
Zika’s next court appearance is scheduled for mid-April.
Township officials said the money Zika allegedly took is on its
way back to the township. Insurance will pay back $100,000 of the
missing funds, and the remaining $50,000-plus is in an escrow account
with Zika’s attorney, Paul Ackourey.
If convicted, Zika could face 10 to 20 years in prison.
Newport Twp. officials shaken by potential
Newport Township Commissioners Chairman Paul Czapracki was working
Friday morning at State Correctional Institution at Retreat when
the prison was abruptly put on lock down and staff was ordered to
huddle in the prison’s gymnasium.
The superintendent had a major announcement. He told the staff that
the prison is one of five statewide being targeted for possible
closure to cut costs. Czapracki, 52, a prison maintenance worker,
immediately worried about his future but also about his township,
which relies heavily on the 400-plus tax-paying workers at the prison.
“I was devastated,” Czapracki said. “Nobody knew anything about
The closing of SCI-Retreat would cripple the local economy and evaporate
the township tax base, Czapracki said.
“Being that I work there and I am a commissioner, I have to look
at it both ways. It’s a lose-lose situation,” Czapracki said. “We
got 400 employees at Retreat. Not only will the township be affected,
these families will be affected too. A lot of employees who work
there live in the township as well.”
Czapracki said township officials met with state Sen. John Yudichak
at his office following the announcement. During their meeting,
Yudichak, D-Plymouth Township, was heard on the phone speaking with
state Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel, U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta,
R-Hazleton, and others.
Czapracki noted township officials will fight the closure of SCI-Retreat,
but have to prepare for the possibility it will soon be shuttered.
One possibility discussed to save jobs, he said, might be trying
to get the state to lease the facility to house federal inmates.
In addition to SCI-Retreat, the other prisons being considered for
closure are SCI-Waymart, SCI-Frackville, SCI-Mercer and SCI-Pittsburgh.
After talking to lawmakers, prison officials and union members,
Czapracki said he got the impression only three of the prisons are
seriously being considered for closure and SCI-Retreat is one of
“It’s a very good possibility that Retreat will be closing,” Czapracki
SCI-Retreat opened as a state prison in January 1988
The facility, which sits between the Susquehanna River and a mountainside,
had been a state-run mental health hospital until 1981. Prior to that,
it was a county-owned home for the poor.
The prison is in Newport Township, but it is only accessible from
U.S. Route 11 in Hunlock Creek.
A distinctive feature of the complex is a bridge that spans the river.
Staff and visitors have to cross the bridge to get to the prison.
The state Department of Corrections listed the “pros and cons” for
each of the five prisons that are being considered for closure in
an internal report of recommendations for possible prison closures.
The report can be viewed at http://www.wbcitizensvoice.com/pdfs/prisonclosure.pdf
The limited access to the prison was cited by the department as one
reason the prison is a candidate for closure. The lone access road
is a problem because during bad floods, like in 2011, the prison is
left in “complete isolation” because flooding shuts down Route 11
in both directions, according to a memo of the proposal released by
Currently, the prison holds about 1,105 inmates and has 400 employees.