Attorney: Client wrongly placed in jail

By Saxon Daugherty Staff Writer

A petition for writ of habeas corpus has been filed on behalf of a Franklin man accused of starting an altercation at the Venango County Courthouse last week.

The document, which is a judicial mandate ordering that an inmate be brought to the court so it can be determined whether or not the person is imprisoned lawfully, was filed Thursday through the Court of Common Pleas by attorney John Lackatos.

Lackatos is representing 57-year-old William Ziegler, who had charges withdrawn and refiled against him earlier this week.

Franklin police initially charged Ziegler with a misdemeanor count of simple assault and a summary charge of public drunkenness on March 2 after he allegedly punched a man several times with a closed fist in the witness waiting room during Central Court the day before.

A preliminary hearing was held for Ziegler on Wednesday, but Venango County District Attorney Shawn White said the charges would be withdrawn and refiled not long after the session had begun.

The hearing was terminated at that point.

Later Wednesday, Ziegler was arraigned on a new charge of disorderly conduct in addition to the misdemeanor count of simple assault and summary count of public drunkenness.

The motion filed Thursday by Lackatos claims that jail records indicate Ziegler left with a Franklin police officer at 1:10 p.m. and returned at 4:20 p.m.

Records from the Franklin Police Department show that Ziegler was brought to the station shortly after 2:30 p.m and then taken to the courthouse before being returned to the jail at 4:16 p.m., the document said.

The motion filed by Lackatos asserts that the officer’s failure to return Ziegler to the Venango County jail after the first set of charges were withdrawn constitutes a violation of Ziegler’s rights under the fourth, fifth, sixth and 14th amendments.

“The prolonged and continued detention of the defendant after the ‘first complaint’ was withdrawn is an illegal detention or new arrest,” the motion said. “Such arrest is not supported by the law.”

The document also said there were no circumstances existing Wednesday to justify an additional arrest without a warrant.

In addition, the document claims the presentation of the instant complaint from the officer to one of the district magistrates was illegal and improper because the judge was not the issuing authority who permitted the withdrawal of the first complaint.

A motion for bail modification accompanied the motion for writ of habeas corpus.

Lackatos said in the document that Ziegler’s current bail, set at $25,000 straight, is unreasonable and requests that it be modified to an unsecured amount.

The case will be heard by Judge Robert L. Boyer on Monday at 3:30 p.m. in Courtroom II of the Venango County Courthouse.