Attorneys file rare King's Bench petition on predator catcher case

Feb. 12—WILKES-BARRE — Attorneys representing a Shickshinny man allegedly caught by the self-proclaimed Luzerne County Predator Catcher have asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to intervene in the case based, in part, a difference of legal opinions across the Commonwealth.

John Daniel Davenport, 28, was charged by Kingston police with information supplied by a "cooperating witness" after a series of online conversations that were sexual in nature. The cooperating witness is not named in the criminal complaint but has been identified as Musa Harris during court proceedings.

Davenport's attorneys, Joseph F. Sklarosky Sr. and Michael A. Sklarosky of Sklarosky Law of Kingston, filed a rare King's Bench petition with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court as there have been a difference of prosecutorial decisions and judicial opinions on non-law enforcement vigilante groups and private citizens who set up child predator stings.

"There is currently no appellate guidance on this issue in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. As a result, some counties are choosing to prosecute these cases while others are not," the attorneys wrote in their King's Bench petition filed last week.

District attorneys in Centre, Clearfield and Dauphin counties have opted not to accept and prosecute adults who are caught by non-law enforcement vigilante groups or private citizens.

In Luzerne County, District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce has proceeded to prosecute some but not all of Harris' cases he brings forth. Harris, an adult, is not a law enforcement officer.

The difference of prosecution and judicial opinions across Pennsylvania centers on the language of unlawful contact with a minor. The statute requires a law enforcement posing as a minor or an actual minor to support the offense in court.

Sanguedolce previously explained adding another criminal offense, criminal attempt to unlawful contact with a minor, supports prosecutorial efforts.

Attorneys Joseph Sklarosky Sr. and Michael Sklarosky filed the King's Bench petition after Luzerne County President Judge Michael T. Vough denied a request to dismiss the case against Davenport, who is facing charges of criminal attempt to commit unlawful contact with a minor, criminal solicitation to commit statutory sexual assault and criminal use of communication facility.

Davenport's attorneys aggressively attempted to have the case dismissed, including submitting Harris' criminal record from New Jersey.

Vough wrote in his denial, "(Davenport) was not charged with committing the crime of unlawful contact with a minor. He was charged with criminal attempt to commit unlawful contact with a minor. To be guilty of an attempt, a person must have the intent to commit a specific crime..."

By comparison, Clearfield County President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman dismissed a similar case against a man charged after being busted by a vigilante group citing the unlawful contact with a minor requires a law enforcement officer posing as a minor or an actual minor.

Davenport's trial that was scheduled to take place this week has been continued.