- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 19, 2001

YORK, Pa. (AP) A judge yesterday rejected a defense attempt to toss out murder charges against the mayor and eight other white men accused of killing a black woman during a 1969 race riot.
Bucks County Judge Edward Biester disagreed with the defense argument that too much time had passed to allow a fair trial. He said information uncovered last year gave prosecutors a legitimate reason to reopen the case.
Judge Biester also said he would not certify his decision, which would have allowed defense attorneys to immediately appeal his ruling.
"This case has been delayed long enough," the judge said.
Attorneys estimated that it could be six months to a year before the case goes to trial.
Mayor Charlie Robertson and the other defendants were charged earlier this year with killing Lillie Belle Allen, 27, during the 10-day riot.
Several members of Miss Allen's family smiled and hugged each other when Judge Biester issued his decision. As he walked out of the courthouse, Mr. Robertson said he was not surprised by the decision.
Asked how he felt about the prospect of a trial, Mr. Robertson said: "I didn't shoot anybody."
All the defendants have pleaded innocent. All of them except Mr. Robertson are accused of firing at a car in which Miss Allen was riding on the fourth night of the riots. Mr. Robertson, who was a city police officer in 1969, is accused of handing out bullets and encouraging whites to kill blacks before Miss Allen was shot.
Defense attorneys said they expect to appeal Judge Biester's ruling, but without his certification the Superior Court would have to decide whether it would hear it.
"I didn't think we were going to actually win at this level," said attorney Frank Arcuri.
The attorneys had argued that it would be impossible for their clients to receive a fair trial because of the long delay between the killing and the arrests.
They said some witnesses who might exonerate the defendants are dead, memories have faded and important evidence including the bullet fragment that killed Miss Allen, the car she was riding in and the clothes she was wearing the day of the murder have been lost or destroyed.
"The 30-year delay has not only blurred what happened back then, but has also blurred why the killings were not prosecuted back then," said William Costopoulos, Mr. Robertson's attorney. "Thirty years have come and gone, and Charlie Robertson has been prejudiced because of that delay."
Prosecutors said they had found enough new evidence in their recent investigation to warrant pursuit of the case. They also said the defendants failed to produce any evidence proving that the delay hurts their ability to mount a defense.
Henry Schaad, a white police officer, also was fatally shot during the riot. Two black men who were arrested last month and charged with his killing face a preliminary hearing today.

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