SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — A hearing in Lackawanna County on Friday for the five Office of Youth and Family Services employees who were charged with endangering the welfare of a child and failure to report or refer.
The hearing was to decide whether the charges against them would be dropped, or if the case remains open and heads to trial.
On July 24th, all five attorneys of the employees signed a motion to quash each of the charges against their clients. A decision has not yet been made.
It was a heated scene Friday at Lackawanna County Court as the five attorneys of the Office of Youth and Family Services employees charged with endangering the welfare of a child and failure to report or refer appeared in court. They made their case as to why their clients should have their charges dropped.
“We’re glad the judge took the time to listen to our arguments. We think he’ll take it and give it fair consideration and we’re optimistic that our view will prevail,” said David Solfanelli, attorney for Amy Helcoski.
Each attorney referenced a statute under the Pennsylvania State Child Protective Service Law, stating immunity when acting in good faith from criminal and civil charges. One attorney argued that if the court does not grant the five workers immunity. There will be more employees that leave the department across the commonwealth.
“There’s immunity that applies here to all of these workers and we believe that the immunity bars this prosecution and if these people are protected these caseworkers are protected by immunity, they shouldn’t be forced to run the gauntlet like any other defendant,” stated Robert Trichilo, attorney for Bryan Walker.
The Lackawanna County District Attorney’s office is prosecuting the case. They argued that now is not the time to claim immunity and that this should be saved for a preliminary hearing.
Lackawanna County District Attorney Mark Powell provided an off-camera response to the hearing on Friday, stating “We hope the judge lets the case proceed to a jury. The immunity statute was not meant to protect wrongdoers. It was meant to protect children and those who report abuse of children.”
The prosecution went on to talk about the conditions that the children were living in, referencing cases of children being without adequate access to food, safe shelter, and other necessities.
The judge did not issue a ruling and will take everything from the hearing is under consideration.
28/22 News has been keeping a close eye on the case since it came to light and will continue to keep you updated.