What happens to the criminal justice system when it is the prosecutor himself who is arrested and charged with crime? This is the question being pondered in Mercer County where District Attorney Miles Karson has been charged with 17 misdemeanor crimes by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office. To be sure, even a prosecutor must obtain counsel and present a criminal defense to the charges just like anyone else in that situation.

The charges range from obstruction of government functions to officially oppressing an arrest or search warrant, and hindering prosecution. The press reports are unclear regarding the nature of the alleged facts surrounding the charges. There were reports in February regarding an incident when police responded to a call involving a woman in her underwear in the streets spewing profanities regarding Mr. Karson.

The woman was not injured in any way. Karson was present and said everything was under control. No charges were ever filed in that incident and it remains unclear whether the recent charges relate back to that event. According to at least one Mercer County defense attorney, the charges against the district attorney are low level misdemeanors. Even if he is convicted, it is questionable whether the crimes would be serious enough to compel his dismissal from office, according to that individual. 

Pennsylvania is a state with tough provisions for removing a public official from office. First, however, Karson, like any other person, must present a criminal defense or negotiate a plea bargain with state prosecutors. Whichever strategy is chosen, all 17 charges will be disposed of, unless some of them are dismissed preliminarily for legal reasons by the presiding judge in the case. By the nature of the reported charges, it appears that the allegations may be asserting that Karson tried to interfere with the arrest and prosecution of a potential criminal defendant.

Source: wfmj.com, “Mercer County District Attorney facing criminal charges“, Cristen Manion, Oct. 19, 2017