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Pa. attorney wasn't traveling with fugitive, lawyer says

December 15, 1998|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Todd A. Dorsett, a Waynesboro, Pa., attorney who was missing for a month, says he does not know the whereabouts of a fugitive he was accused of harboring, according to his attorney.

"I can definitely tell you they were not traveling together," David R. Yoder said Monday of Dorsett and Jacob G. Schaff V.

Yoder said Dorsett and Schaff "didn't make any joint plans."

"He has no idea what happened to him," Yoder said.

Dorsett, 38, of 128 W. Main St., was taken into custody on a fugitive warrant last Thursday by police in Troy, Ohio. Police in the town 20 miles north of Dayton were checking license plates of cars at a Motel 6 when Dorsett's Lincoln Town Car came up on the National Crime Information Center computer.

Yoder said the charge against Dorsett, hindering the apprehension of a fugitive, is a second-degree misdemeanor.

Conviction on the misdemeanor charge would carry a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Pennsylvania State Police have filed no other charges against Dorsett.

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"It's my understanding that Todd is working on a statement so people have some idea of why he left and where he went," Yoder said. Until then, Yoder said he cannot answer questions related directly to the charge.

Dorsett and Schaff, who was his client, were last seen at Dorsett's home on Nov. 9 and the charge was filed by police on Nov. 12. Schaff, 26, was wanted on a state parole violation and a Franklin County bench warrant.

"What I know is that he was supposed to attend an alcohol treatment program as a condition of his parole," Yoder said of Schaff. He said he believed that Schaff either failed to attend or to complete the program.

The state warrant was issued on Aug. 25, 1997. The county warrant was for failing to appear at a nonsupport hearing on Dec. 17, 1997.

District Attorney John F. Nelson said whether Dorsett and Schaff were traveling together will have no impact on the criminal charge against Dorsett.

Dorsett was interviewed by state police in April about Schaff's whereabouts. Neighbors had reported seeing Schaff at Dorsett's home in the weeks before they disappeared, and the lawyer's secretary had said she saw them together on Nov. 9, according to police.

Schaff listed his address as Dorsett's home in a 1996 drunken driving case.

Nelson said his office will not handle Dorsett's case.

"I have formally requested the (Pa.) Attorney General's Office to handle the matter, due to the close working relationship with Todd over the years," Nelson said Monday.

Dorsett was a conflict attorney for the county, representing criminal defendants who could not be represented by the Public Defender's Office because of conflicts of interest. His contract was terminated after he disappeared.

Nelson said his office and state police have been interviewed about Dorsett's case by the Pennsylvania Office of the Disciplinary Counsel, which investigates allegations of misconduct by attorneys.

"I am representing him as a private attorney, mainly for any charges that may be brought against him by the Disciplinary Counsel," said Yoder, who is also an assistant public defender.

Yoder represented Dorsett at his arraignment before District Justice Shirley Shatzer, but said another attorney might handle the criminal charge.

A Jeep belonging to Dorsett was recovered by Pennsylvania State Police last Tuesday at the Washington County Regional Airport near Hagerstown, Md., but Yoder said he could not answer questions about how it got there.

"It's my understanding that it has been repossessed," he said.

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