LEWISTOWN - There was no shortage of tension Monday in the Mifflin County Court of Common Pleas as a state constable was sentenced for threatening the district attorney.
Amid a packed courtroom, Brian Frankhouser was sentenced to serve 10 days to one year by visiting President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman, who was brought in to preside over the case after Mifflin County Court of Common Pleas President Judge Timothy S. Searer recused himself earlier this year. Frankhouser is scheduled to report to Mifflin County Correctional Facility by 5 p.m. Friday to begin serving his sentence.
He also is forbidden to possess firearms while he is under the supervision of the Mifflin County Probation/Parole department.
The tension lingering over the case boiled to the surface Monday as the proceedings came to a close.
"Go rot in hell, Steve!" a woman shouted as Mifflin County District Attorney Steve Snook left the courtroom through a back exit. Others in the courtroom taunted the media with cries of "Go print your lies."
Prior to sentencing, Frankhouser addressed the court and said he truly regretted his actions.
"I had no intention to harm the (district attorney)," Frankhouser said, also noting the case has created a of lot stress for himself and his family.
During a court appearance in September, Frankhouser agreed to plead guilty to one count of simple assault under a plea agreement arranged by Michael Sprow of the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office and attorneys representing Frankhouser and Magisterial District Judge Tammy Hunter. The Attorney General's Office took over prosecuting these cases due to potential conflicts of interest and because Mifflin County District Attorney Steve Snook was an alleged victim in one of the cases.
Frankhouser had been charged in connection with two separate incidents: charges of retaliation against a prosecutor, terroristic threats, aiding in an escape and interfering with the custody of an inmate. These charges were all withdrawn under the agreement.
Frankhouser was alleged to have removed Justin Davis - an inmate and personal friend - from the correctional facility under the guise he was transporting him to Hunter's office to address a bad check charge on Jan. 28, court documents state. Hunter had been alleged to have participated in a cover up for Frankhouser, her boyfriend, and was alleged to have lied to authorities investigating the incident. Charges stemming from those allegations were later withdrawn in connection with Frankhouser's plea agreement.
Frankhouser faced additional charges of terroristic threats and retaliation against a prosecutor stemming from an incident at the HammerMill Bar and Grille on March 30. Frankhouser is alleged to have confronted Snook at the HammerMill, where the prosecutor plays guitar in his free time, court documents indicate.
As part of the plea agreement neither Frankhouser nor Hunter is permitted to speak about the matter in public. Frankhouser also had to resign as a state constable and he is banned from seeking any employment in the field of law enforcement.
Sprow and other members of the attorney general's office have chosen not to comment when asked for further explanation about the gag order.
During Monday's sentencing hearing, Ammerman said he received several letters of support from Frankhouser's friends and family, as well as a victim impact statement from Snook.
Snook read his statement to the court and said what happened in this case was "clearly related solely to me doing my job as district attorney."
"Prior to this, I hardly knew the defendant and had little or no interaction with him. He found out from a confidential informant that he was the subject of a criminal investigation and that was what triggered his conduct in threatening me," Snook said.
"The defendant didn't just happen to run into me. He made a conscious decision and effort to seek me out and threaten me. He had many opportunities to simply leave me alone, but rather chose to confront and threaten me over this investigation," Snook told the court. "It was either an effort on his part to manipulate this investigation by threatening me or some type of revenge, as he sees me as responsible for the investigation. Either way, the only reason I was not physically assaulted was because of the swift intervention of others. Again, this was simply about me doing my job."
Snook said he knows there are people who are unhappy with him because of the job he has to do, but this was the first time anyone had ever confronted him in such an aggressive manner.
Because the threat came from someone in the law enforcement community, Snook said, he found this incident "particularly unnerving."
"I think he believes that the law does not apply to him and that he can get whatever he wants through threats and intimidation. This defendant clearly hates me and has threatened to do me harm," Snook said. "I am most concerned about his entering a guilty plea and then immediately going down to the sheriff's office, with counsel, and demanding a Concealed Weapons Carry Permit. To me, the message is I have threatened you and I plan to carry it out."
Snook said he simply wants the defendant to leave him and his family alone and go on with his life.
Frankhouser's sister, Deena Craig, also read a statement to the court. She described her brother as a family man whom she looked up to.
"He has the biggest heart, he is so giving he would give the shirt off his back to someone who needed it more. He is not one to brag, so a lot of times it's by chance that you hear of something he has done. He will do work for people and not take a penny for it even since times have been tough for him," Craig said.
Craig also said that her brother is a "very honest person" who is not violent and "did not deserve the mental anguish he has gone through in the last six months."
"This has been tremendous pressure on our family and on Brian. My mom and dad's hearts have been broken to watch their son go through this," Craig said. "We all stand by Brian because of the kind of man he really is - not what the charges say or what the newspaper says."
Frankhouser's uncle, George Havice, also addressed the court, describing his nephew as a "caring person" who provides for his family and is a hard working business man.
Havice added that his nephew treats people with "dignity and respect."
"I've been told by a lot of people, he was probably the best constable Mifflin County had," Havice said.