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Saturday, March 31, 2007

News Flash: Kocis case warrants resealed

DA’s office made request after seal order expired, a reporter asked to review them.

WILKES-BARRE – Luzerne County Clerk of Courts Robert Reilly refused to release four sealed search warrant affidavits on Friday in connection with the investigation into the murder of Bryan Kocis.

The deadline that kept the affidavits sealed for 60 days expired on Thursday.

Luzerne County Assistant District Attorney Tim Doherty and State Police at Wyoming filed the affidavits on Jan. 29, and were granted a request by Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. to seal them for 60 days.

State law allows search warrant affidavits to remain sealed “for a period of not more than 60 days.”

But prosecutors must “establish good cause for the sealing of the search warrant” for the initial 60 days and for any 30-day extensions, the law states.

When a reporter for The Times Leader asked to inspect the affidavits on Friday – the 61st day, Reilly refused the request and contacted Doherty, who later filed an order signed by Judge Michael Toole to keep the affidavits sealed for an additional 60 days.

Toole’s order is time-stamped 10:50 a.m. when it was received by the clerk of courts office.

Reilly was requested by a reporter to inspect the affidavits at about 10 a.m.

It remains unclear what the affidavits say or what investigators searched in connection to the investigation.

Times Leader attorney Ralph Kates said Reilly should have allowed the search warrant affidavits to be inspected because the deadline had passed and Reilly had not received a court order signed by a judge to keep the affidavits sealed when a reporter asked to inspect them.

Reilly said he had a “verbal commitment” that a signed order to keep the affidavits sealed was going to be filed.

“(Friday) is the 61st day, the sealed affidavits should have been unsealed,” Kates said. “Without a court order extending the sealing, the clerk of courts should have released it.”

Peter Moses, solicitor for the clerk of courts office, said Reilly didn’t do anything wrong by not allowing a reporter to inspect the affidavits.

In his calculation, Moses said Friday was 60 days after Jan. 29, when Doherty filed the sealed affidavits.

“After talking to my client and reviewing all the relevant documents, the date when it was originally sealed was Jan. 29, 2007, which would mean Friday was the 60th day,” Moses said. “I talked to Mr. Reilly about this matter and he indicated to me that Tim Doherty requested an extension. The clerk of courts office handled this matter appropriately.”

Doherty didn’t return several messages seeking comment on Friday.

Moses said Reilly was being cautious when he called Doherty to determine if the affidavits can be unsealed, despite the deadline having passed.

“That’s no different than John Q. Public informing the district attorney’s office that the deadline is approaching,” Moses said. “It’s still the decision by the district attorney’s office whether or not to file for an extension to keep the affidavits sealed.”
Kocis, 44, was found dead inside his Dallas Township home on Midland Drive on Jan. 24. Kocis owned Cobra Video, a company that produced and sold gay pornographic movies.

An unsealed search warrant affidavit filed by prosecutors on Jan. 26 says that Kocis suffered 28 stab wounds to the front torso, and that his neck had been slashed before his home was set on fire.

A home in Virginia Beach owned by Harlow Cuadra, 25, a male escort with ties to gay pornography, was searched on Feb. 10.

No arrest has been made in the case.

Edward Lewis, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 829-7196.

I am truly staring to believe that they are hiding something by not unsealing those search warrants. Whether it is to protect their investigation or it is to protect them from being sued by Harlow and Joe. This case just gets more and more twisted as the days go on.

This is Elmysterio and I'm out, well actually I am really going to bed.