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Tough court cases, but we have faith in system: Editorial

Posted 12/19/18

While one key criminal case in the area recently reached a resolution, another is still in its early stages.

The shooter in the March 2017 incident at River House Bar & Grill in Londonderry …

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Tough court cases, but we have faith in system: Editorial

Posted

While one key criminal case in the area recently reached a resolution, another is still in its early stages.

The shooter in the March 2017 incident at River House Bar & Grill in Londonderry Township came to a plea bargain recently, less than 21 months from the time the incident occurred. That’s a relatively short time for such a case to be resolved.

Tanner A. Stark, 23, formerly of Mount Joy, will serve 9 to 20 years in state prison. He pleaded guilty to five counts of aggravated assault, two counts of simple assault, and to one count each of carrying a firearm without a license, discharging a firearm into an occupied structure, and recklessly endangering another person.

Stark had been facing three separate counts of criminal attempt-murder of the first degree. However, these counts were withdrawn as part of a plea bargain arrangement agreed to by the DA’s office and Stark’s defense attorney, George Matangos.

Stark began shooting outside River House, 2495 E Harrisburg Pike, at about 1:30 a.m. March 24, 2017. He had been escorted outside by two bouncers after Stark had been seen carrying a handgun inside the restaurant.

Police say Stark fired at the two bouncers. One of Stark’s shots hit the leg of a man on the patio. He also was confronted by two men: David Seesholtz, who was a customer in the River House at the time, and River House bartender Andy Cole. Stark shot Cole three times, according to Dauphin County First Assistant District Attorney Michael A. Sprow.

We were pleased to hear that Cole, the victim who was most seriously wounded in the incident, was “carefully consulted” and concurred with the agreement that was reached regarding Stark, according to Sprow.

We hope that all parties involved can move on now that justice has been done. We wish Cole and Seesholtz the best as they continue to try to move on, and we hope that the River House will continue to work to keep safety a priority. It was a matter of keeping the establishment safe that led the bouncers to take Stark outside. It is unfortunate he chose to respond the way he did, with violence.

Another very important case is still potentially in its early stages. We are referring to the shocking allegations made against Middletown’s former police chief, George Mouchette, who faces allegations he sexually assaulted a woman who was meeting him for professional reasons in his office Aug. 13.

According to court documents filed by the DA’s office, Mouchette grabbed the woman by the arm, forced her up on his desk, pulled her dress up and penetrated her with his fingers.

According to the complaint, the woman repeatedly told Mouchette “no,” and then the chief allegedly tried to insert his penis into the woman’s vagina.

The woman kept telling Mouchette “no” and “stop,” according to the complaint, but Mouchette did not stop until the woman agreed to meet with the chief outside of the police department, the complaint said.

He is scheduled to appear in plea court Feb. 4 to face the charges. He hasn’t appeared in court since the charges were filed.

These are shocking charges against a sworn police officer who was wearing his uniform and working in his official capacity.

We don’t know what happened in that office. We don’t know if Mouchette will ever tell his side of the story, although according to the affidavit of probable cause included in the arrest papers filed by the DA’s office, Mouchette during a phone conversation with the victim Aug. 17 acknowledged that the incident took place in his office and “apologized many times for his actions.”

Resolution on the Mouchette case will be difficult. The charges themselves brought unwanted attention to the borough. Mouchette has been replaced with an interim chief until the case is resolved. If he is found guilty or takes a plea, we hope the woman who says she was attacked can move on with her life.

We appreciate what District Attorney Fran Chardo told us in August, soon after the charges were filed: “Obviously it’s disturbing, the public confidence aspect of it is obviously deeply disturbing. But it’s not going to change how we approach the investigation or the prosecution. Right is right, and we are going to try to do the right thing regardless of who it is or the position they hold.”

That is a key tenet in our courts system. Everyone must be treated the same to truly achieve justice. The system isn’t always perfect, but we have faith in it, and the people who work hard to achieve justice every day.