The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

January 14, 2014

Adams couple’s charges sent to new judge

Kathy Mellott

EBENSBURG — The case against an Adams Township couple is being shifted to a different district judge after the charges were dismissed last week by District Judge Rick Varver of Sidman.

Cambria County District Attorney Kelly Callihan has agreed to allow the Johnstown Police Department and the state attorney general’s drug task force to refile drug-related charges against Dennis and Roseann Ricks.

Callihan also, through a petition, asked President Judge Timothy Creany to name a different district judge where the charges can be filed and a second preliminary hearing held.

That order came down Tuesday. Creany ordered that Ebensburg District Judge Fred Creany preside over the case.

Also on Tuesday, the charges dismissed by Varner on Jan. 6, were refiled at Creany’s office and related charges filed at the office of Johnstown District Justice Michael Musulin.

The Ricks, of the 500 block of Beaver Run Avenue, Sidman,  were charged in late November by city police and an agent from the attorney general’s office with possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia and receiving stolen property.

Seized were guns and $4,500 worth of heroin. In a criminal complaint, authorities said they found 300 stamp bags of heroin, a .45-caliber Manchester Arms Thompson submachine gun and a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun.

Dennis Ricks, a convicted felon, was also charged with illegally possessing a firearm.

The arrests were based on a search warrant giving authorities the right to enter the home, and it was that search warrant that proved to be a significant snag when police and the county district attorney’s office showed up for the preliminary hearing early last week at Varner’s office.

Patricia Moore of the Cambria County public defender’s office objected to a number of what she viewed as problems with the case, including the lack of the search warrant, which had been sealed under court order.

The state attorney general’s office had recently become involved in the illegal drug battle in the county, and the Ricks’ preliminary was the first case that went to a full hearing, Callihan said.

Because the search warrant was sealed, it was not made available to the prosecution.

“The seal had not expired and it prevented us from using it,” she said.

Without the search warrant, Varner found the prosecution failed to show a prima facia case.

Callihan said she and members of her staff have discussed the case with the state.

“We’re working with this task force to make sure our procedures are in line,” she said.

The Ricks remain in the Cambria County Prison in lieu of $100,000 bond.

Kathy Mellott covers the Cambria County courthouse for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at kathymellotttd.