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February 21, 2014

Jordan Brown Case, Five Years Later: Reluctant to comment, prosecutor remains ready

NEW CASTLE — Prosecutors stand ready to bring the Jordan Brown case to its conclusion.

Anthony J. Krastek, Pennsylvania senior deputy attorney general, took over prosecution of the case in January 2010.

He became involved following the election of Joshua Lamancusa as Lawrence County’s district attorney. At the time, Lamancusa cited a possible conflict of interest and the Pennsylvania Bar Association agreed. So the case was turned over to the state attorney general’s office. Previously, former county district attorney John Bongivengo handled the prosecution.

For four years, Krastek has had the lead in prosecuting the now-16-year-old Jordan, accused of fatally shooting a pregnant Kenzie Houk.

But Krastek will not be in Philadelphia next month when the case is before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. On March 12, the full seven-member panel is expected to hear arguments in an appeal of the guilty verdict against Jordan. James Barker, chief deputy attorney general, is handling that proceeding.

Depending on how the Supreme Court rules, Krastek said, he may continue to be involved.

“Everything depends on the decision of the court.”

In 2012, Lawrence County Judge John W. Hodge found Jordan responsible for the deaths of Houk and her unborn son. That juvenile justice system determination is equivalent to a guilty verdict in criminal court.

His attorneys appealed that conviction to the state’s Superior Court, which overturned Hodge’s decision.

Now, Krastek explained, the prosecution is asking that the Superior Court’s ruling be reversed.

“That would reinstate Judge Hodge’s findings.”

Krastek said the Supreme Court justices have several options. One involves retrying the case, which Krastek said he is prepared to do. Another would return the case to Hodge to reconsider his ruling.

The prosecutor said he could not comment on particulars of the case, including what evidence had been presented during the juvenile court hearing. He explained details of juvenile court matters are not public, only the outcome is.

He said he remains up to date with the case and has kept in touch with Houk’s family.

“This has been brutal on them.” Krastek said. “The criminal justice system and the juvenile courts are not designed to reconcile the loss of victims or survivors of victims.

“There is nothing the system can do to salve the family’s loss.”

(Email: nlowry@ncnewsonline.com)

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