HOLLIDAYSBURG - Former Altoona police officer Duane Eichenlaub was ordered Wednesday to pay an East Freedom man injured in a Memorial Day 2010 bar brawl $9,791 in medically related expenses that were the result of being punched repeatedly by the officer.
Defense attorneys on Monday argued that Blair County Judge Timothy M. Sullivan should have ordered the restitution when Eichenlaub was sentenced for aggravated assault and obstruction of justice on May 28.
At the time of sentencing, however, representatives of the Blair County Victim-Witness Program were still attempting to determine the money that Earl P. Eshelman, 60, paid out of pocket for medication and treatment he needed after the incident at an Altoona bar.
Sullivan at the time set restitution at $1 and said he would hold the record open for 30 days, giving authorities time to finalize Eshelman's restitution claim.
The judge stated that the defense had 10 days to challenge the claim.
Sullivan, in an opinion released late Wednesday, said this is what occurred. Deputy Attorney General Christopher Jones submitted Eshelman's restitution claim within the 30-day period, and Eichenlaub's Harrisburg attorneys, Timothy M. Barrouk and Theodore C. Tanski, contested the restitution within the 10-day period.
Sullivan held a hearing Monday, during which time the defense attorneys argued that the state's Superior and Supreme courts required restitution to be resolved at the time of sentencing.
The judge reviewed the precedential cases presented by the defense attorneys but took exception that his way of handling the Eshelman restitution claim was "illegal."
Citing general rules of court, Sullivan pointed out that a judge is to order restitution at the time of sentencing but also found that the court may "at any time" alter the restitution if it states the reasons for doing so.
He said the defense in May did not object to his $1 order and his decision to hold open the record on restitution for 30 days.
He added, "We find no prejudice to the defendant herein."
Sullivan ruled, "There is no dispute that Mr. Eshelman suffered serious and extensive physical injuries as a result of the assault by the defendant that occurred on the date of the incident." The judge said, "There is certainly no surprise here that Mr. Eshelman is seeking restitution for his injuries."
Sullivan found substantial differences in the Eshelman restitution case when compared with the precedential cases cited by the defense attorneys.
In one case, the judge waited 18 months to have
a hearing, the judge
He concluded by stating he believes the way the Eshelman restitution was handled complied with the law, "which provides the sentencing court broad authority to modify restitution amounts at any time if we state the reasons for doing so as a matter of record."
Eshelman was injured when he attempted to break up a fight in the men's restroom of the bar during the early morning of May 30, 2010.
Eichenlaub and a fellow officer, Eric Kriner, followed a man into the restroom after he allegedly improperly touched Eichenlaub's wife. Eichenlaub and Kriner began to beat the man.
When Eshelman, who was in the restroom at the time, attempted to break up the fight, Eichenlaub punched him several times in the face and head, severely injuring his left eye and inflicting injuries that require ongoing medical treatment.
Eichenlaub is serving 11 to 23 months in jail for aggravated assault, simple assault, conspiracy, hindering apprehension, tampering with a public record and obstruction of law and other functions.
Kriner was given four years' probation for his part in the brawl with the other man, Herman "Bo" Lardieri, but was not involved in the Eshelman case.