Judge orders Franklin man released from jail

Staff Writer

A Franklin man was released from the Venango County jail Monday after a judge ruled he was improperly arrested last week.

William Ziegler, 57, was granted a writ of habeas corpus by Judge Robert L. Boyer during a hearing at the Venango County Courthouse.

Ziegler’s defense counsel – attorney John Lackatos – filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus Thursday.

The judicial mandate orders that an inmate be brought to the court so it can be determined whether the person is imprisoned lawfully.

Ziegler was initially charged 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A preliminary hearing was held for Ziegler last Wednesday, but District Attorney Shawn White said the charges would be withdrawn and refiled not long after the session got underway.

Later that day, Ziegler was arraigned on a new charge of disorderly conduct in addition to the simple assault and public drunkenness charges.

In Lackatos’ petition, he claimed that the officer from the Franklin Police Department violated Ziegler’s rights under the fourth, fifth, sixth and 14th amendments when he didn’t return him to the Venango County jail immediately after the charges were withdrawn.

Boyer said Monday there were a number of procedural problems in the refiling process, including the fact the charges weren’t brought before the district judge who was present when the first set of charges was dismissed.

Boyer also said police had no statute to authorize an arrest of Ziegler, and that a warrant should have been obtained or the charges should have been issued via summons.

White said Ziegler was arrested without a warrant the first time because he was publicly intoxicated, and the officer mimicked that procedure the next time around.

Boyer added that, if charges are filed again, they need to go through the district judge who was present for the dismissal.

Boyer ruled that, since procedures weren’t followed correctly, the complaint filed against Ziegler is now invalid and that he should be released immediately.