A Palmer Township district judge Wednesday ordered the vice president of Nazareth Borough Council -- facing charges of obstructing a state police probe -- to stay out of borough Police Department headquarters.
Larry Stoudt, 74, waived his right to a preliminary hearing in front of District Judge Jackie Taschner. There was a change of venue request because District Judge John Capobianco's office, Nazareth Borough Hall and the police department are all housed in the same building.
Stoudt was charged Oct. 9 with one misdemeanor count of criminal attempt-obstruction of law or government for allegedly trying to interfere with a Pennsylvania State Police undercover investigation. He faces a maximum of two years in prison and $5,000 in fines.
Stoudt plans to apply for the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program for first-time offenders. Connie Nelson, a Northampton County assistant district attorney, said her office will not oppose Stoudt's application.
Taschner set the councilman's bail at $1,000 unsecured. However, she faced a legal "quagmire."
"I don't want you to be put back into a situation where you can influence the police department," Taschner explained.
Stoudt allegedly asked Nazareth's police chief to run the driver's license of a suspected liquor enforcement officer, court records say, in an attempt to protect the local American Legion post from undercover, prying eyes.
According to a police criminal complaint, Stoudt approached police Chief Thomas Trachta with his request at borough Police Department headquarters on May 24, exactly one month after the Pennsylvania State Police Liquor Enforcement Office executed a search warrant on the Nazareth Jacksonian Club.
Stoudt told Taschner that as chairman of council's Public Property Committee, he is permitted to enter the police department. But, he noted, other committee members can handle his duties when the police department is involved.
As part of his bail conditions, Taschner ordered Stoudt to not enter borough Police Department headquarters. Because Stoudt is a Nazareth resident, however, he is allowed to enter the department for emergencies.
Taschner added that the councilman is allowed inside Nazareth Borough Hall.
According to the criminal complaint:
On May 24, Stoudt initially checked the police department's television, making sure its RCN cable had not been reconnected. Then, according to court records, Stoudt handed the chief a photocopied Pennsylvania driver's license belonging to "Jessica Harhai."
This was the fake identification the undercover officer used to obtain a membership at the Jacksonian Club, and written on the photocopy were the words “LCB agent that took down the Jacks."
The raid on the Nazareth Jacksonian Club, according to court records, netted illegal gambling machines and cash. To protect her undercover status, the liquor enforcement officer who investigated the club since September 2011 did not participate in the raid.
According to court records, Stoudt told the chief, "I want you to check this out."
Trachta explained that it was illegal to run a license if it was not part of an official investigation, court records say. Stoudt persisted, reasoning that he believed the license was fake.
According to court records, Trachta added that the State Police would know if he ran the license, in turn causing problems for the chief.
Despite his refusal, according to court records, Trachta felt the councilman would not take "no" for an answer.
Troopers Rick Malone and Michael Romano met with Stoudt on July 3 at his home on E. Center Street. Stoudt explained he found the photocopied driver's license at the Harold V. Knecht Post 415 American Legion, where a customer said the woman was the liquor enforcement officer involved in the Nazareth Jacksonian Club raid.
He asked Trachta to run the license “as a friend,” according to court records. Stoudt added that he knew the chief informed Mayor Fred Daugherty Jr. about his request, "and that he should have known better as he is 'on council.'"
Stoudt said he shredded the photocopy after the chief's refusal.
His reasoning for looking into the driver's license, court records say, is because the American Legion and the Jacksonian Club are "sister clubs." If "Jessica Harhai" was a liquor enforcement officer who "busted the Jacksonian, then he did not want the same thing to happen at the Legion."
Stoudt has been on Nazareth Borough Council for more than 30 years and has previously served as chairman of the Police Committee.