When Larry Stoudt asked Nazareth's police chief to run the driver's license of a suspected liquor enforcement officer, court records say, his goal was to protect the local American Legion post from undercover, prying eyes.
Stoudt, 74, the vice president of Nazareth Borough Council, was charged Tuesday with one misdemeanor count of criminal attempt-obstruction of law or government.
According to a police criminal complaint, Stoudt approached police Chief Thomas Trachta with his request at Nazareth 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.
That raid, 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.
Initially, Stoudt checked the police department's television, making sure its RCN cable had not been re-connected. 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."
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.
After a borough police officer interrupted the conversation for an important matter, Trachta told Stoudt that he would not run the license "and there was nothing else he could do for Stoudt," court records say. Stoudt then left.
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."
In an e-mail to Patch, Daugherty said the police chief has been directed to cooperate fully with authorities.
Stoudt has been on Nazareth Borough Council for more than 30 years and has previously served as chairman of the Police Committee.