Former deputy’s ‘prank’ leads to charges

The Susquehanna County Courthouse was built in the Greek Revival style – one of the architectural styles prominent in the Montrose Historic District which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2011. STAFF PHOTO/STACI WILSON

A former Susquehanna County deputy sheriff faces charges and lost her job after an April Fool’s Day prank on a co-worker went wrong.

Former deputy Katherine Stanziale, 27, was charged by Tpr. John Waznak with one misdemeanor count of simple assault and summary counts of harassment and disorderly conduct. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 7.

Pennsylvania State Police, Gibson, were contacted at about 4:30 p.m. on April 1 regarding the incident that occurred at about 4 p.m. that day, according to the affidavit filed in Montrose District Court.

Stanziale is accused of applying a super glue adhesive to the cap of a co-worker’s water bottle. The victim was employed as a deputy sheriff at the time of the incident, but resigned from the post, effective April 5, according to the minutes from a county commissioner meeting.

The victim opened the bottle, placed it to her lips and took a drink, according to the affidavit, and she experienced an unpleasant chemical taste.

Another co-worker said, “You didn’t drink that, did you?” and advised the victim that Stanziale had glued the cap and she spit out the water.

Her lips then became glued together. In an interview with police, the victim told investigators that she then went to the bathroom and applied soap and water and scrubbed her lips until they separated. She said she experienced pain and discomfort and actions caused her bleeding injuries to her lips.

The victim told police that after work that day she began to receive text messages from Stanziale. According to the affidavit, Stanziale apologized, writing, “Hey. Sorry about the water bottle,” and “I feel absolutely awful for what I did.”

Later that evening, Stanziale was interviewed by police and admitted to putting glue on the bottle cap as a prank, and that they became busy with work duties where she left the office and was not able to advise the victim about the bottle.

Sheriff Lance Benedict confirmed that the April 1 incident led to Stanziale’s dismissal from her position. But, he said, “I don’t believe it was anything malicious,” Benedict said, confirming he thought is was an April Fool’s Day prank that had “gone wrong.”

Benedict said that the episode was an “embarrassment to the department.”

“We all have a job to do,” Benedict said and added that he expected his deputies to continue to remain professional.

The charges filed against Stanziale came just days after the hiring of a new county detective raised eyebrows of some county employees.

The starting rate for a county detective position was changed to $35,000 per year, effective April 29, per an approval by the county salary board at the April 28 meeting, and the county commissioners acknowledged the hiring of Tiersten Newhart to the post by District Attorney Marion O’Malley, which was also effective on April 29.

But the move has raised eyebrows and claims of “nepotism” among several county employees, who wished to remain anonymous and feared repercussions from higher-ups if they spoke out on the matter.

Newhart, was last employed by the county in the sheriff’s department but resigned from a deputy sheriff position on April 5. The district attorney’s detective office is helmed by John Oliver, a member of Newhart’s family. Oliver will not be supervising Newhart confirmed District Attorney Marion O’Malley.

The Independent received a copy of an unsigned letter that was reportedly sent to the county commissioners from a county employee(s) claiming the hiring violates the county’s policy on “Supervisor-Subordinate” relationships.

The letter also asserts that other “more qualified” candidates applied for the detective position, some of whom are already employed with the county.

The Independent also obtained a copy of the county’s policy on supervisor-subordinate relationships which the letter claims the hiring violated.

However, each row officer – including the district attorney – is not necessarily bound by policies set by the county commissioners and has the authority to hire, fire and supervise employees within their office.

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