Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Former Judge Gets 30 Days for Stealing Drug Evidence

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Former Judge Gets 30 Days for Stealing Drug Evidence

Article excerpt

Former Washington County Common Pleas Judge Paul Pozonsky stood before the court Monday as a "broken man," his voice catching as he described losing his job, his reputation and, soon, his wife to an addiction he fueled through stealing cocaine submitted as evidence in his court.

"I made terrible decisions," he said. "It's taken away the only job I ever loved."

For those crimes, Mr. Pozonsky will spend 30 days in the Washington County Jail. Visiting Judge Daniel Howsare of Bedford County ordered him to serve up to 23 months, but the 59-year-old is expected to be released on parole after one month.

Mr. Pozonsky was scheduled to surrender at 4 p.m. Monday. Defense attorney Robert Del Greco said he needed the afternoon to arrange for the care of his elderly parents, who he had been living with in Muse. After parole, he'll spend two years on probation in Washington County and will be responsible for more than $15,000 in fees and other court costs.

In explaining his decision, Judge Howsare called the situation "very difficult" and said he didn't intend to "add salt to the wound." But he said some incarceration was required for the former judge who created the county's drug court, knew counseling was available and "instead decided to use the evidence . to satisfy his drug use."

"It's a factor that's difficult to overlook," he said.

Mr. Pozonsky abruptly retired in June 2012, halfway through his second 10-year term and a month after he was stripped of handling criminal cases by the president judge. Investigators found that some evidence bags in his chambers had been tampered with, their seals broken, and some cocaine had been replaced with baking soda.

He pleaded guilty in March to three misdemeanors - theft by unlawful taking, obstructing administration of law and misapplication of entrusted property - and in exchange, prosecutors dropped three other charges and agreed not to seek incarceration as a penalty. Also that month, Mr. Del Greco said Mr. Pozonsky has been "clean and sober" going on four years.

On Monday, he called his client "the victim of a career-ending, self-inflicted wound."

"To say that he has suffered mightily is an understatement," Mr. …

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