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Prosecutors Stand By Case Against Alleged Killer Teen

July 19, 2019 GMT

WILKES-BARRE — County prosecutors on Friday stood by the case they presented last month against alleged killer teen Mercedes Linn Hall, asking a county judge to forward murder charges for trial based on the same evidence a magistrate rejected.

Hall, 16, is accused of conspiring to murder 71-year-old Joseph Monka at his Edwardsville home April 15. Monka’s granddaughter, 17-year-old Gabriella Long, is accused of luring him to an upstairs bedroom so her boyfriend, Christopher Cortez, 19, of Wilkes-Barre, and her friend, Devin Malik Cunningham, 20, of Wilkes-Barre, could ambush Monka in a robbery for his cash and car.

Following a preliminary hearing last month, Magisterial District Judge James J. Haggerty allowed murder charges to move forward against Long, Cortez and Cunningham. But Haggerty dismissed the murder and robbery charges against Hall, saying her mere presence at the scene of the crime was not enough evidence that she was a co-conspirator.


Prosecutors re-filed the charges against Hall and petitioned for another judge, arguing Haggerty has shown “an ongoing inability” to be fair in murder cases.

Following another hearing, Luzerne County President Judge Richard M. Hughes III granted the prosecution request for a change of venue, finding that Haggerty’s actions “would give the appearance of partiality in this case to a reasonable person.”

During Hall’s second preliminary hearing Friday, Assistant District Attorney Jarrett J. Ferentino submitted the transcript from the first proceeding, noting that the defense had already had an opportunity to question the prosecution witnesses.

“If the defense doesn’t feel we met our burden that day, they should be pleased this is all we’re submitting,” Ferentino said.

Defense attorney Larry Kansky and Joanna Bryn Smith argued that as a matter of law Luzerne County Judge William H. Amesbury should reject the case because nothing had changed.

“You’re using the exact same evidence,” Kansky said.

Amesbury noted that he is not bound by Haggerty’s interpretation of the case and that his opinion could very well be different.

“I don’t know whether I’m going to agree with him or not. I haven’t read it,” Amesbury said. “It’s entirely possible, reading the same evidence, that two judges can disagree. It wouldn’t be the first time.”

The judge gave the parties until Monday at noon to file briefs outlining their legal arguments. He set a hearing for 1 p.m. Tuesday to deliver his decision.