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Defense: Maybe Pennsylvania AG’s office shouldn’t handle case against Somerset County DA

Jeffrey Thomas is accused of having attacked a woman in her Windber home in September.

  • The Associated Press
FILE PHOTO: The Somerset County Courthouse is seen on Oct. 20, 2015.

 sarowen / Creative Commons via Flickr

FILE PHOTO: The Somerset County Courthouse is seen on Oct. 20, 2015.

(Somerset) — The attorney representing a suspended western Pennsylvania prosecutor in a sexual assault case is questioning whether the state attorney general general’s office should be handling the case.

Jeffrey Thomas, 36, Somerset County’s elected district attorney, is accused of having attacked a woman in her Windber home in September. He faces sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, unlawful restraint and strangulation charges.

 Jeffrey L. Thomas, Somerset County District Attorney Facebook

Jeffrey L. Thomas, Somerset County District Attorney Facebook

Jeffrey L. Thomas, Somerset County District Attorney Facebook

Defense attorney Ryan Tutera suggested Friday after a pretrial hearing that potential jurors perhaps should be asked whether they have supported a former district attorney defeated by his client who now works in the attorney general’s office. He also questioned whether that office “is the appropriate body to handle this process.”

Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s office said in a statement that his office’s track record demonstrates “no fear or favor when holding people who break the law accountable for the crimes they commit.”

The statement said the two offices had a good working relationship before the charges were filed, and Thomas referred eight cases to state prosecutors to handle. In addition, it said, the staffer cited by Tutera doesn’t handle active proceedings but works in the conviction integrity unit dealing with closed cases.

Tutera has said that Thomas maintains he is innocent of all of the charges. Motions in the case must be filed by April 20 with arguments on them slated April 29 and jury selection to begin June 7.

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