Members of the media can call Executive Aide Megan Wieand at 610-782-3230. News releases from 2009 to the present are available.
OFFICE OF THE LEHIGH COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY
Lehigh County Courthouse
455 W. Hamilton St.
Allentown, PA 18101-1614
Office Hours: Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
The District Attorney's Office is charged with seeking justice, deciding when criminal charges will be filed, and fairly and efficiently prosecuting individuals charged with committing adult and juvenile offenses. The District Attorney works closely with all police departments in the county and state and federal law enforcement officials on investigations and crime-fighting and public safety initiatives.
All Lehigh County citizens have a stake in the prevention, investigation and prosecution of crimes. We share a vision of safe streets, neighborhoods and communities where we can live, work and raise our children.
Unfortunately, not everyone shares that vision of safety and security in our workplaces, our homes and our schools. That security can be shaken by familiar crimes of violence and newer crimes committed by defendants who misuse and abuse constantly changing technology. Weapons no longer are solely firearms, knives and, in cases of driving under the influence of alcohol, vehicles. Defendants have turned lawful devices, such as cell phones and computers, into new weapons that are used to steal personal information, peace of mind, and childhood innocence when child pornography is distributed.
Task Forces within the District Attorney’s Office have been created to investigate specific crimes. Law enforcement officers in the Task Forces have specialized training in conducting homicide, drug, auto theft and insurance fraud investigations. Other detectives specialize in child abuse and domestic violence cases.
In 2014, I revamped the Domestic Violence Unit and, with the assistance of the Court of Common Pleas, established a Domestic Violence Court through which all domestic violence cases are now prosecuted. Along with this initiative, the Lehigh County Adult Probation Department started a Batterers Intervention Education Program for defendants convicted of domestic violence. These changes will result in defendants being more closely supervised and treated for anger management issues.
A Computer Crimes Task Force was formed in 2011. Detectives work in a laboratory on the campus of DeSales University and investigate crimes committed with computers and other electronic devices. An Elder Abuse Task Force investigates cases of elder abuse and neglect and does outreach programs in the community.
Assistant district attorneys in the office have extensive experience in prosecuting a variety of crimes. They have knowledge of specific areas of the law, including cases involving child abuse and special victims, vehicular homicide and drunk driving, domestic violence and juvenile crimes. One attorney who is experienced in appeals is chief of a unit that works exclusively on cases when defendants challenge convictions and sentences.
First Assistant District Attorney Steven M. Luksa was given the Col. John K. Schafer Memorial Award at the Lehigh County Chiefs of Police Association annual banquet in November 2012. The award is named after a former Pennsylvania State Police commissioner who had a 23-year career with the state police, part of which was with Troop M, Bethlehem.
Luksa has worked in the District Attorney's Office since 1996 and was appointed first assistant district attorney in 2007.
In 2001, the first Investigating Grand Jury in the history of Lehigh County was sworn in. In 2015, an Eighth Investigating Grand Jury was empanelled to hear testimony in many difficult cases, some of which are cold cases.
In addition to prosecuting adult and juvenile criminal cases, the office handles summary offense appeals, private complaints, forfeitures, and probation and parole violation cases.
Statistics show the magnitude of the number of cases that attorneys in the office handle. The total number of adult criminal cases disposed of each year is more than 5,000. Most of those result in convictions or tantamount resolutions. The office has a conviction rate of higher than 97 percent. In addition, the office handles more than 1,300 juvenile cases a year.
A homicide case summary from 1998 to July 2015 shows that 223 defendants were charged with criminal homicide, and 217 entered guilty pleas or were convicted at trial. Dispositions: 57 convicted or pleaded guilty to first-degree murder; 15, second-degree murder; 109, third-degree murder; 14, voluntary manslaughter; and 20, involuntary manslaughter. Six were found not guilty. One was found guilty at trial of lesser offenses, and one defendant pleaded guilty to lesser offenses. In one case, a defendant was found incompetent to stand trial, and the homicide case was withdrawn.
In December 2015, I announced that all police departments in Lehigh County and detectives in the various task forces would soon be using the opioid antidote, Naloxone, in overdose cases. When certain requirements are met, detectives and officers who have been trained will be able to administer Naloxone to individuals experiencing an opioid-related overdose. This will save lives and combat the destructive effects that overdoses have on families and our communities.
Opioid overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in Lehigh County. Opioid drugs include morphine, heroin, fentanyl, oxycodone, Percocet, Percodan, methadone, Codeine and hydrocodone.
The Naloxone administration program is being made possible through grants from Capital BlueCross and the Dorothy Rider Pool Health Care Trust. The grants will allow police to get supplies of Naloxone and will be used for training, which has been facilitated by Cetronia Ambulance Corps.
District Attorney's Office staff members participate in many community-oriented events, such as Senior Fest, and attend community fairs to distribute educational literature and to speak about the dangers of drug use. We also give sexting presentations to schools to warn high school and middle school students about the consequences of their actions in this time of perpetually changing technology and social networking.
In 2011, members of the District Attorney’s Office and other court-related offices launched a Veterans’ Mentor Program. The program, which was modeled after similar programs around the state and country, pairs veterans who are defendants in the criminal justice system with veterans in the community who serve as volunteer mentors.
As of October 2015, there were 23 mentors, some of whom have been working with a veteran for more than a year. The program's Steering Committee has received more than 125 applications from veterans in the criminal justice system who wanted mentors. The mentors undergo four hours of training and are supported by a Veterans' Mentor Program Steering Committee that meets once a week.
The program is designed to help veterans to identify problems they have and to help them to obtain the services they need. Feedback from mentors and defendants has been very positive. As of September 2015, only six veterans in the program have committed new crimes or continued to use drugs and alcohol.
The program is a cooperative effort of members of the District Attorney’s Office and officials in Adult Probation, Pre-Trial Services, the County Jail, Public Defender’s Office, Veterans Affairs Office, County Drug and Alcohol and Mental Health-Intellectual Disabilities. All have been working with veterans’ agencies to help veterans get necessary treatment so they can rejoin their families and their communities.
The program has received $25,000 in grants from the Air Products Foundation that is being used to grow the program to meet the needs of more veterans and to connect them with necessary services.
The District Attorney's Office led an effort to develop a Regional Intelligence and Investigation Center (RIIC) in Allentown. The Center integrates police departments in the county and dozens of local, state and federal databases in one electronic crime-fighting resource. More than 125 investigators and other law enforcement personnel have been trained in using the information portal and search applications.
The RIIC opened in 2013 and already has revolutionized the way Lehigh County police departments analyze and share collected data to solve crimes. The primary purpose of the Center at 640 Hamilton St. is to offer investigative support, strategic analysis and situational awareness to county law enforcement. Expert assistance by RIIC personnel and a consolidated technology platform deliver critical information quickly, conveniently and in a way not previously possible.
Criminal investigators can post and share information about alerts and suspects and can search more than 3 million police and prison records.
Director Julia Kocis, who led the development team for the RIIC, and intelligence analysts at the center have assisted investigators in solving five homicides as of March 2015.
In 2014, there were 150 requests for RIIC analyst assistance. Analysts spent 2,082.50 hours on those requests.
The Center contributed to the investigation and solution of several cases. Information obtained through the use of the Center was invaluable in the investigation of a homicide in December 2012 when the body of a woman was found in Salisbury Township. The investigation led to the arrest of two Berks County men who were charged with homicide.
Data obtained from the RIIC also was critical in the investigation of a 2013 homicide outside a Bethlehem club that resulted in an arrest.
A $150,000 matching grant from the Harry C. Trexler Trust and a grant of $147,000 from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency was used to enlarge the data sources integrated into the system and to enhance the gang intelligence database for use by local law enforcement.
The District Attorney's Office has not only responded to crime but has taken an active role in anticipating future needs of the community and law enforcement personnel.
My efforts and those of the dedicated individuals in the office are directed toward a common goal – working together to make Lehigh County a safer place to live, work and play.
JAMES B. MARTIN, District Attorney