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Judge Chides Lawyers In Attempted Murder Case For Behavior

November 15, 2016

WILKES-BARRE — Allegations of evidence mishandling and lying exchanged between lawyers in the attempted murder case against Melissa Scholl prompted a county judge on Tuesday to chide both parties, telling the lawyers to grow up. The battle began Monday, when defense attorney Larry Kansky filed a motion for dismissal because he alleged prosecutors had evidence that was “missing, tampered with or not preserved.” Specifically, he noted that the car Scholl is accused of using to asphyxiate her children, ages 5 and 7, has been destroyed and that First Assistant District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce and others handled the hoses involved without gloves. In interviews with media Monday, Sanguedolce acknowledged Act Towing had destroyed the car — without permission, a fact that is now the subject of a state police investigation — but called the other allegations “outrageous lies.” During a contentious hearing Tuesday afternoon, Kansky noted that Luzerne County Judge David W. Lupas previously signed a gag order in the case and asked that Sanguedolce be found in criminal contempt of court for discussing the case. He entered into evidence articles by The Citizens’ Voice and the Times Leader to show Sanguedolce “intentionally and knowingly violated your court order.” “He did so for the specific purpose of attacking me professionally and personally,” Kansky said. “I was very careful in my motion to leave out the phrase prosecutorial misconduct, but now we have that.” Kansky also alleged that Sanguedolce’s call for an investigation by the Pennsylvania Bar Association Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility Committee was a “direct threat” against him. Sanguedolce countered by arguing that he did not violate the gag order because he was responding to an attack on his character, rather that discussing the merits of the case. He again reasserted his claim that he has never handled the garden hoses in question. “My response in those articles was due to the fact that attorney Kansky had filed a motion impugning my character,” Sanguedolce said. “My comments were in defense of my own ethics and professionalism.” Lupas denied Kansky’s motion to hold Sanguedolce in contempt, warning the attorneys to act like grown-up professionals and to stop “bickering.” “I’m going to chastise both of you and ask you to act appropriately,” Lupas said. “I ask that you cease from engaging in this type of banter. ... I shouldn’t have to say that.” Lupas did not immediately rule on the merits of Kansky’s motion to dismiss. Scholl, 33, is charged with attempted murder after allegedly trying to kill her children in Wilkes-Barre Township in December. Prosecutors allege she snaked a hose from her car exhaust to the window in a murder-suicide attempt. 570-821-2058, @cvjimhalpin