Attorney Craig Conley says Judge Frank Forchione was “grandstanding” in his courtroom on Dec. 19 when he ordered Studer to pay the fine to the Sandy Hook School Support Fund, set up for the families of the victims of the Newtown, Conn. school shootings.
A $5,000 fine from convicted ex-coach Scott Studer should have stayed in Stark County and not sent to victims of the Newtown, Conn. shootings as a judge had ordered, a Bethlehem Township man and his attorney say.
Attorney Craig Conley says Judge Frank Forchione was “grandstanding” in his courtroom Dec. 19, when he ordered Studer to pay the fine to the Sandy Hook School Support Fund.
Conley contends state law requires all fines to be paid into the county’s general fund.
“He simply wasn’t allowed to do it in the first place,” Conley said of Forchione.
On Wednesday, he sent a three-page letter to county Prosecutor John D. Ferrero, asking him to file a civil action against Forchione to recover the $5,000 with interest. The money was sent to Newtown on Jan. 2.
Ferrero said his office has reviewed the issue and will amend the judgment entry, a change that won’t require the money to be returned.
“We will recommend that an amended entry be filed to reflect Judge Forchione’s intentions,” he said. “It will still be payable to the fund the judge wanted. It will be designated as a fine, but to be paid in lieu of paying it to the court. ... We feel that will cure the problem that Mr. Conley is bringing up.”
Forchione sentenced Studer to 15 years in prison on eight counts of illegal use of a minor in a nudity-oriented material or performance. Studer, the former Jackson High School building aide and freshman basketball coach, videotaped nude student athletes in the boys varsity locker room during a seven-year period.
The sentencing came five days after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, in which 20 children and six adults were killed. Forchione held a moment of silence for the victims during the proceedings.
Conley said the judge gained widespread notoriety for ordering the fine to be paid to Newtown.
“This was just grandstanding,” Conley said. “This was, ‘Jeeze, I can get my name in the paper.’ The courtroom is not a place for a popularity contest.”
Forchione declined to comment Wednesday on the specifics of Conley’s accusation.
“Looking back, there were many good ways these funds could be spent,” Forchione said Wednesday, “but on that particular day, my heart was with the families of Newtown.”
Conley is representing Bethlehem Township resident Thomas Marcelli, who led a referendum campaign against an imposed countywide sales tax in 2009. He asked Ferrero to appoint a special prosecutor to review the case, since he signed off on the Dec. 31 entry.
He wants the money to be put into the general fund, and suggested Forchione should pay it himself.
“The problem now is, if Judge Forchione should knock on the door of that (Sandy Hook School Support Fund) and say ‘I shouldn’t have done that,’ that would be a public-relations nightmare,” Conley said. “Whether it’s knocking on the door of those poor people in Connecticut or it comes out of his own pocket, it has to go to the county treasury.”
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