AG’s office cops to mistake

HOLLIDAYSBURG – An agreement approved by a judge late Monday has eliminated a hurdle faced by Dr. Barry Bender of Tyrone as he seeks parole from a 10- to 20-year prison sentence imposed for sexual offenses against teenage boys.

Bender, 67, who is serving his time at the State Correctional Institution at Laurel Highlands, appeared by videoconference in the courtroom of Blair County President Judge Jolene G. Kopriva.

Through his court-appointed Altoona attorney, Joel Seelye, Bender contended that when he entered his guilty pleas to six charges in 2003, Senior Deputy Attorney General Michael Madiera stated as a term of the agreement he would not oppose parole for Bender when he had served his minimum sentence.

Yet last August when Bender came up for parole, the Attorney General’s Office sent a letter opposing it.

Bender was denied parole, partly based on the opposition by the AG’s office.

Deputy Attorney General William R. Stoycos, who participated in the hearing via telephone from Harrisburg, admitted an “inadvertent” mistake had been made because over the years, the attorneys in the AG’s office changed.

Madiera went from the AG’s office to district attorney in Centre County.

In reviewing the situation, Stoycos said it has been determined that there was an agreement that the AG’s office would not object to parole for Bender as his minimum term expired.

“I very much regret the mistake,” Stoycos said.

The defense attorney placed the agreement on the record, and the judge affirmed it.

Seelye stated the agreement does not mean the office is in favor of parole.

A letter has been sent to the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole clarifying the issue, Stoycos stated.

Bender in 2001 was charged with 33 offenses. He eventually pleaded to counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, administering a controlled substance, conspiracy, corruption of minors, furnishing alcohol to minors and criminal solicitation.