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Judge recuses himself in hearing for Pa. man charged with robbing bank

Judge to be brought in from out of the area

April 01, 2013|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com
  • Charles Benjamin McNeal
Submitted photo

Washington County Circuit Judge Daniel P. Dwyer recused himself from a suppression hearing Monday for a Chambersburg, Pa., man charged in a September 2012 bank robbery, and an out-of-area judge will be brought in to hear the case.

Charles Benjamin McNeal, 27, was apprehended by police on the property of Washington County Circuit Judge M. Kenneth Long Jr. after McNeal robbed a Pennsylvania Avenue bank in September 2012, Assistant State’s Attorney Christopher McCormack said.

Long or his wife could be called to testify as a witness in McNeal’s trial, McCormack said.

McNeal, whose address in court records is listed as Washington County Detention Center, told Dwyer during the brief hearing that he would feel “more comfortable” with a visiting judge, asking other county circuit court judges to recuse themselves as well due to their relationship with Long.

McNeal is charged with two counts of felony robbery and one count of felony theft as well as various misdemeanors, including one count of burglary of a dwelling, one count of theft, two counts of second-degree assault and several counts of conspiracy.

Washington County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to M&T Bank at 13409 Pennsylvania Ave., north of Hagerstown for the reported robbery on Sept. 14, 2012, and later arrested McNeal in the Fountain Head area, according to police.

McCormack said the state would be withdrawing all plea offers to McNeal and would seek judgment by trial on both counts of robbery.

If convicted, two felony robbery charges carry a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

During the hearing Monday, Dwyer said he felt he could be fair in hearing McNeal’s case, saying Long “kind of shrugged it off,” but then chose to recuse himself because of the appearance of impropriety.

McNeal’s record includes felonies, misdemeanors and summary offenses in Pennsylvania dating to 2004, according to court records. He’s been found guilty on a felony robbery charge in Franklin County, Pa., and has entered guilty pleas to theft and drug charges, records show.

The purpose of a motion to suppress evidence before trial is to ask a judge to exclude certain evidence on the grounds that it was improperly obtained.

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