DA asks court to dismiss two Austin officials The state
COUDERSPORT – A Potter County judge will rule on the removal of two selected officials for past convictions for serious crimes.
At a hearing on May 12, Judge Stephen Minor heard arguments aimed at removing Caitlin Crosby from the post of Austin mayor and Andrew Dinda from his seat on the Austin council. Samuel Stretton, a lawyer from Philadelphia, represented Crosby at the hearing. Dinda introduced himself.
Arguments for dismissal of both persons for previous convictions for serious crimes were to be heard at the hearing. Both Crosby and Danda were elected to office in November 2021, led the oath and work.
The court was faced with the question of whether a person is suspended from serving his duties for serious crimes or only those that contain elements of criminal falsehood.
Watson argued that the Pennsylvania Supreme and Supreme Courts, dated 1842, argued that the Pennsylvania Constitution’s statute on “shameful crimes” did not allow anyone convicted of felony or felony-related crimes to be deprived of liberty.
In July 2021, Crosby pleaded guilty to assault on a car with aggravating circumstances, charges of manslaughter and reckless driving. In December 2014, Crosby was driving a car that knocked down two men walking in Cameron County, killing one person and injuring another.
Dinda pleaded guilty in July 2015 to a crime for violating territories by breaking into structures, charges of criminal damage to property, and consolidated charges of harassment and driving while operating privileges suspended until the 2014 incident.
“Today here … the law is clear, unambiguous and has not been repealed: a conviction for a criminal offense deprives (Crosby) of the right to hold office,” Watson said.
Stretton argued that the 2011 Commonwealth v. Rambler case showed a change in interpretation and that cases should be considered on a case-by-case basis to determine whether the crime should remove a person from office.
Crosby’s case, he said, has nothing to do with criminal lies or moral depravity, but rather gross negligence. He said the courts should decide to put more candidates like Crosby, who ran as a libertarian, on the ballot and give voters more choice.
“She won the election. People support her as mayor, ”Stretton said.
Watson argued that the Rambler case only said that the legislature “may” want to consider changing the law, but supported previous decisions that convictions for serious crimes deprive a person of the right to hold office.
Stretton said Crosby’s conviction would not deprive her of her right to serve as U.S. lawmaker, and indicated she was willing to appeal the case to higher courts. It also reformed after the 2014 incident, he said.
“I believe that this case, if I had taken it (to the appellate court), could have been the right thing to do to change (the law),” Stratton said.
Regarding the case of Dinda Watson, he made similar arguments and noted that the appellate courts have determined that a criminal offense is a crime of criminal falsehood.
Dinda said he was elected by Austin residents, not all Potter County voters. Watson noted that several Austin residents had contacted him and questioned Dinda’s right to hold office.
Minor said he would review the Constitution and the court cases cited by both lawyers, and plans to make a decision within weeks.