Ex-cop gets off too lightly

Although convicted felon and former Altoona police officer Duane “D.J.” Eichenlaub has never publicly taken responsibility for his crimes, a Blair County judge decided last week to give Eichenlaub a break.

Judge Timothy Sullivan put aside sentencing guidelines and handed Eichenlaub, convicted in January of aggravated assault, simple assault and criminal conspiracy for the beating of two men at an Altoona bar and subsequent attempt to cover it up, a sentence of 11 to 23 months in county jail.

Sullivan missed the mark with such a light sentence.

Friday marked the third anniversary of the incident. A subsequent state police investigation dragged on for more than a year before charges were filed because of the lying and stonewalling of the police officers involved.

It took a grand jury to flush out the details of what happened in the men’s room of an Altoona bar as well as the efforts of Eichenlaub and former officer Eric Kriner to get their on-duty colleagues to sweep it under the rug.

While Kriner honorably took responsibility – publicly – for his actions, Eichenlaub remained defiant throughout his arrest and trial. At every turn, the 30-year-old Eichenlaub and his advocates pointed the finger at someone else, including victim Earl P. Eshelman, 60.

Yes, Eichenlaub testified he “felt horrible” Eshelman was seriously injured, but he maintained he was defending himself, a notion rejected by the jury. Sullivan noted Eichenlaub showed remorse during he presentencing investigation, but that hardly demonstrates contrition and quite frankly, comes too late to hold much weight.

Yes, Eichenlaub served honorably in the military as a military police officer and was a decorated war veteran before beginning his career as an Altoona police officer.

Obviously, Eichenlaub was emotional and angry after learning his wife was groped by Herman “Bo” Lardieri, 42, a career criminal and convicted perjurer. Still, Eichenlaub, as an officer – and whether on duty or not – failed first by taking the law into his own hands and failed again by his repeated, calculated attempts to hide his culpability from police investigators, including his colleagues at APD.

The public puts great powers into the hands of police, and when that trust is breached, as was the case when on-duty Officer Jack Kuhn III, along with Officer Michele Piscitella, decided to “help” Eichenlaub – at his insistence – by making it “go away,” it’s a serious matter.

When police officers break the law and then try to use their sworn positions to conceal their crimes without apology or remorse, they don’t deserve the kind of break given to D.J. Eichenlaub.