Accused stalker’s comment barred from record

Prosecutors will not be permitted to use an incriminating statement made by a former city detective charged with stalking his estranged wife because he was not advised of his right to remain silent during a stand-off with police just over a year ago.

However, Blair County President Judge Jolene G. Kopriva in an opinion issued Friday refused to drop the stalking charge, and she tabled a decision whether the transcript of a protection-from-abuse hearing against the former officer could be included as part of the evidence against him.

The issue about the PFA case can be brought up later, Kopriva said.

The defense argued that the information about the PFA could cause prejudice and confusion among jury members.

The former detective, Craig Zahradnik, 42, of Altoona was charged after his wife called city police contending that on five or six occasions he was following her vehicle near Logan Valley Mall and Walmart and stating she was in fear.

City police obtained an arrest warrant for Zahradnik for stalking, a first-degree misdemeanor.

On Sept. 26, 2012, police surrounded Zahradnik’s house, and Detective Cpl. Ashley Day called the residence, asking Zahradnik to surrender.

Zahradnik refused requests to come out of his home, and a discussion ensued with Zahradnik wanting to know the basis for the charge.

According to the transcript of the preliminary hearing, Day said to Zahradnik, “Do you know you were following [your wife] around?”

Day then stated, “He said at about 4 o’clock in the morning, ‘Yes, I was following her around because she was ignoring me.'”

The detective read the criminal complaint to Zahradnik, and he came out of the house.

Defense attorney Kristen L. Anastasi argued that Zahradnik was not advised of his right to remain silent and therefore his statement about the events that night cannot be used against him.

The question the detective asked likely would elicit an incriminating answer, Kopriva said.

This means that even though the veteran detective has a “vast degree of police experience,” his statement was under the law involuntary.

Kopriva let the stalking charge stand because, she reasoned, his continuous attempts to appear in front and behind his wife’s car allegedly placed the wife in fear and “does not support the defendant’s contention that his motivation was only to make contact with his children.”

The case is being prosecuted by Deputy Attorney General Clark H. Madden of Harrisburg.