By Phil Ray
Blair County Judge Daniel J. Milliron has tentatively set Nov. 28 to start the trial of a Claysburg couple charged with multiple child sexual abuse offenses against five children, including two youngsters living in Wisconsin.
Milliron met Friday morning with prosecution and defense attorneys and said he wanted to get the cases against Patrick Michael Partsch, 34, and Tabatha Ann Marie Partsch, 40, moving through the system.
The two have been in the Blair County Prison since last fall, and Milliron is aware of Pennsylvania's speedy trial rules, which mandate that suspects must be brought to trial within six months if they are in prison.
The speedy trial clock stops temporarily if the suspects or their attorneys file pretrial motions, which has occurred in the Partsch case.
An attorney in the office of Blair County Public Defender James DiFrancesco filed a request for a competency evaluation of Tabatha Partsh and a request for a competency hearing.
The case was referred to Dr. Joseph Antonowicz at UPMC Altoona, but as of Friday, DiFransesco informed Milliron there would be no need for a hearing, an indication that Tabatha Partsch probably was found competent to stand trial and able to assist her attorney during the trial.
Patrick Partsch, through his attorney, Douglas Keating, has filed a request to sever his and his wife's cases, meaning that the two would be tried separately.
Milliron has scheduled a hearing for Friday to hear arguments on the severance request.
At that time, he also will request the two defendants waive their speedy trial rights so the court has time to hear several pretrial motions that are expected to be filed.
Blair County Deputy District Attorney Jackie Bernard noted the prosecution would be requesting that the child victims not have to testify in an open courtroom but be permitted to testify by teleconference.
This has been done previously in Blair County to protect the children, yet it still provides the opportunity for the defense attorneys to question their stories.
Bernard said that a hearing likely will have to be held before the judge to determine if the children can testify from a room in another part of the courthouse.
Because two of the victims are from Wisconsin, Bernard said any such hearing probably would have to be held close to the time of trial so the children don't have to be transported to Blair County multiple times.
Milliron agreed but, aside from the request for teleconferencing, the judge wants all other pretrial petitions filed within 45 days.
He told the court administrator's office that trial will likely last two weeks.
Patrick Partsch faces 13 charges, including rape of a child, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault and sexual assault of a child under 13 years of age.
His wife has 40 charges against her including conspiracy to commit child rape, aggravated indecent assault and other related sexual offenses. She also faces charges of recklessly endangering another person and corruption of minors. Milliron ordered the defense and prosecution to get together in the next few weeks to review all the issues.