- Associated Press - Monday, July 13, 2015

WASHINGTON, Pa. (AP) - A western Pennsylvania judge has been sentenced to 30 days to 23½ months in jail for stealing cocaine from evidence he ordered to have kept in his chambers instead of in police custody.

Paul Pozonsky, 59, was sentenced Monday, and must serve two years’ probation after he’s released from jail. He’ll also forfeit his $98,000 annual state pension and benefits, although that was because the obstruction of justice charge - one of three crimes he pleaded guilty to in March - automatically triggered that punishment, his attorney Robert Del Greco Jr. said.

As a result, Pozonsky has experienced a meteoric fall from grace that will likely reach its low point if the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania disbars him as expected in the coming months, Del Greco said.

“He’s left without resources, living at home with his parents, without a job and undergoing treatment” for cocaine addiction, Del Greco told The Associated Press.

Pozonsky served 28 years on the bench, first as a district judge in Cecil Township and McDonald before he was elected to Washington County Common Pleas Court to replace a retiring judge in 1997. Pozonsky helped establish that county’s first drug court, designed to mete out special sentences for people whose crimes - like Pozonsky’s - were fueled by addiction.

Del Greco and Pozonsky, who called himself a “broken man” and begged for mercy, had hoped for a probation-only sentence given his lack of a criminal record, the loss of his pension and other personal hardships stemming from his conviction.

But Senior Judge Daniel Howsare, brought in from Bedford County to avoid having another Washington County judge sentence him, said Pozonsky should have sought the same help he offered others through the drug court.

Howsare imposed the jail sentence not to “add salt in the wounds” but because Pozonsky “instead decided to use the evidence … to satisfy his drug use.” Pozonsky will most likely be paroled after the 30-day minimum.

Pozonsky resigned abruptly without explanation in June 2012, a month after Washington County’s president judge removed him from hearing criminal cases. He moved to Kenai, Alaska, where his wife had family. He was charged a year later after a state grand jury reviewed the case. Pozonsky also pleaded guilty to theft and misapplying government property after other charges, including a felony conflict of interest charge, were dropped in a plea bargain.

Pozonsky’s wife has since filed for divorce, and he now lives with his elderly parents in Muse, the tiny village in Cecil Township where he grew up, Del Greco said.

He was ordered to report to the Washington County Jail at 4 p.m. Monday. If the warden determines Pozonsky can’t be safely housed there - perhaps because he might have handled the court cases of other inmates - he’ll be transferred to jail in neighboring Allegheny County, Del Greco said.

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