HOLLIDAYSBURG - A Tyrone doctor who was sentenced a decade ago to a long prison term for sex and drug offenses with teenage boys is challenging his recent denial of parole because the prosecution recommended it be rejected.
Former doctor Barry L. Bender through his Altoona attorney, Joel Seelye, has asked that the case be reopened and that he be granted either a new trial or some other remedy because part of his original plea agreement contained a promise that the prosecution would not oppose his parole.
The defense has filed a belated post-conviction petition claiming newly discovered evidence and contending the courts should now step in and review the Bender case.
Bender, now 66, was charged in 2001 with 33 offenses after a lengthy police investigation accusing him of holding large parties with teenagers at which drugs were allegedly distributed, and the young people were lured into sexual encounters.
The charges were recommended in 2001 by a statewide grand jury conducted by the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office.
Blair County attorney Thomas M. Dickey represented Bender, and a plea agreement was struck with then Senior Deputy Attorney General Michael Madiera in which Bender would enter guilty pleas to five charges with the rest of the offenses being dismissed.
He entered pleas to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a victim under 16 years of age, administering controlled substances, conspiracy to possess illegal drugs, corruption of minors and criminal solicitation.
Blair County Judge Daniel J. Milliron sentenced Bender to 10 to 20 years in a state correctional institution.
He is being held at the State Correctional Institution at Laurel Highlands.
During his sentencing hearing, Bender maintained his innocence and since being jailed has continued to file various petitions.
In October, the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole denied parole for Bender.
Among the reasons for denial was "the negative recommendation made by the prosecuting attorney."
Madiera went on to serve a term as district attorney of Centre County and is presently not practicing law.
Deputy Attorney General William R. Stoycos is the listed prosecutor on the Bender case.
Post-conviction petitions are supposed to be filed within a year of the termination of appeals.
The defense petition, filed in the office of the Blair County Prothonotary and Clerk of Courts, contended Bender did not know that the prosecution recommended rejection of his parole until Oct. 24.
It argued that the petition is timely.
Seelye cited federal and state higher court decisions mandating that prosecutors have an "affirmative duty" to honor plea agreements.
The negative recommendation against Bender's parole was only one reason given by the state board for its rejection.
The board, according to the county petition, told Bender, "You need to participate in and complete additional institutional programs." Also, the board stated, reports and evaluations indicate Bender remains a risk to the community.
Bender can file a new petition for parole next August at which time the board will examine whether Bender has participated in and successfully completed sex offender treatment and whether the Department of Corrections looks favorably upon his release.
He must also maintain a "clear conduct record," the board stated.