Friday, September 15, 2006

PA Trial Court Acquits Criminal Charge of POA Forgery

On September 13, 2006, the Centre Daily Times posted online an article by the Associated Press regarding an alleged forgery of a power of attorney that was the subject of a criminal prosecution in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. The defendant was acquitted after a non-jury "bench" trial.

The article reports, in part, as follows:

HARRISBURG, Pa. - A state police trooper was acquitted of charges that he forged a power-of-attorney document and allegedly tried to use it to sell property that he owned with his ex-wife.

Dauphin County Judge Lawrence F. Clark Jr. who heard the case against Trooper Kirk A. Perkins without a jury, said the prosecution did not prove all the elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

"The judge was sitting in place of a jury, and that's his job, and we have to accept his judgment," said prosecutor Fran Chardo. "If what (Perkins) did is not a crime, it ought to be."

Perkins, of Mechanicsburg, was charged by the state police's internal affairs unit in February with forgery and tampering with records or identification and was suspended without pay. He worked in the Carlisle barracks.

He allegedly altered the expiration date and property reference on a power-of-attorney document for his ex-wife, Lorien A. Mickelson, of Cantonment, Fla.

In Pennsylvania, the court most involved in questions regarding "powers of attorney" is the Orphans' Court Division, of the Court of Common Pleas in a county, pursuant to Section 711 of the PA Probate, Estates & Fiduciaries Code (Title 20 of PA Consolidated Statutes).

This case appears to have been presented instead in the Criminal Court Division for consideration under the PA Crimes Code.

In that setting, the judge applied a higher standard of proof in considering whether criminal fraud had occurred, than would the Orphans' Court Division in determining whether the POA was valid when exercised.

The complete article is available online

UPDATE 12/08/06:

This ongoing dispute was the subject of a further report on December 8, 2006, in an article entitled "
Ex-wife charged with harassment", by Frank Cozzoli & Pete Shellem, of the Patriot-News (Harrisburg, PA).

The update on the case demonstrates the far wanderings of litigation:

Hampden Twp. said Mickelson made a series of phone calls to Perkins after he told her to stop calling on Sept. 28 and that the only communication between them should be through their attorneys.

Perkins reported the phone calls to police on Sept. 29.

Police traced the calls to a cell phone number assigned to Bryan Mickelson of Cantonment, Fla.

On Oct. 25, Perkins reported more harassing phone calls, police said.

Police said Lorien Mickelson also made two Sept. 28 hang-up phone calls to Abom, who represented Perkins during a forgery trial involving his ex-wife.

In February, Perkins was charged with forgery and records tampering for allegedly signing his ex-wife's name to a power of attorney to sell a Harrisburg property that was in both their names. Clark acquitted him of those charges after a nonjury trial in September.

The charges led to Perkins being suspended from the state police without pay from his post at the Carlisle Barracks. After his acquittal, Perkins was returned to restricted duty on Oct. 12 pending the conclusion of an internal investigation, said state police spokeswoman Linette Quinn.

The article (before archiving) was found here.