HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – The man accused of shooting to death a Pennsylvania state trooper and wounding another asked a judge Friday to order the prosecutor to stop using his name or photo in campaign materials.
Attorneys for Eric Frein requested an injunction to prevent Pike County District Attorney Ray Tonkin from distributing material that refers to Frein because of a new mailer that features his photograph. They also asked to move the case to another county.
“My concern is Eric Frein, my concern is the ability to select a fair and impartial jury,” said Frein defense attorney Michael Weinstein. “My concern is prejudice to him because the prosecutor called him a murderer.”
Tonkin, who faces an opponent in the May primary as he seeks another term, said the mailing did not make any mention of the facts of the case, or its legal arguments.
“I think this motion is a legal stunt, and I’ve seen legal stunts before, with my 15 years of prosecutorial experience,” Tonkin said. “In terms of their argument, they will have to present factual evidence to the judge. This case has obviously gotten wide attention, and I did not discuss the facts of the case in that mailer.”
One side of the mailer has photos of Tonkin and Frein, with an arrow pointing to Tonkin that says, “we can trust this man,” and one pointing to Frein that says, “to prosecute this man.” Below it, it says Tonkin is “the only candidate who has ever prosecuted a murderer.”
Tonkin said that refers to his having successfully prosecuted 10 murder cases over the past 11 years.
“It demonstrates my qualifications to handle the Frein case, but does not mention anything regarding the underlying alleged facts of the Frein case,” Tonkin said.
Frein’s photo depicts him in prison garb shortly after his Oct. 30 arrest on charges he shot to death Cpl. Bryon Dickson and wounded Trooper Alex Douglass last year.
Weinstein said he believes thousands of Republican voters were sent the mailing, and he worries that Frein may also become the subject of television advertising.
“If all this comes out on television, it’s going to morph into a much larger jurisdiction than the mailings,” Weinstein said. “We’re running into a potential problem here of being unable to get a jury that hasn’t been poisoned, anywhere.”
Tonkin’s primary opponent, Kelly Gaughan, said she thinks the judge should grant the injunction.
“No political race is worth jeopardizing the prosecution of Eric Frein,” Gaughan said.
Frein, 31, is accused of shooting the two troopers outside the Blooming Grove barracks in September, then leading police on a massive, tense 48-day manhunt in the wooded region before he was arrested about 30 miles away. He wrote of wanting to start a revolution and told investigators Dickson’s slaying was an assassination, according to court documents.
He has pleaded not guilty and faces a potential death penalty if convicted.
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