Kocis trial delayed again

A judge in the murder trial of a local gay-porn producer agreed this week to postpone the proceeding another month because of continuing attorney changes.

Luzerne County Judge Peter Paul Olszewski ruled Dec. 16 that the trial for accused killer Harlow Cuadra would need to be delayed until Feb. 17, pushing back the previous start date of Jan. 5, to allow Cuadra’s two new attorneys time to prepare for trial.

Cuadra, 27, is accused of stabbing to death Cobra Video owner Bryan Kocis and then setting his Dallas Township home on fire on Jan. 24, 2007. Prosecutors allege that Cuadra murdered Kocis because of a business rivalry.

Cuadra’s former partner, Joseph Kerekes, 34, was also arrested for the murder, but accepted a plea agreement last week and was sentenced to life in prison.

During this week’s hearing, Olszewski consented to the resignation of Cuadra attorneys Stephen Menn and Michael Senape. Menn filed several motions to remove himself from the case because of financial reasons, but Olszewski had previously denied his petitions, saying he did not want to delay the trial, originally scheduled for September, any longer. Senape’s reasons for removal were unclear.

Menn and Senape were both court-appointed attorneys, but Olszewski gave his consent this week for Cuadra to hire attorneys Joseph D’Andrea and Paul Walker, who had filed petitions requesting to represent Cuadra Dec. 9.

D’Andrea and Walker asked that Olszewski grant a 120-day continuance in the trial so they would have enough time to prepare.

Assistant district attorney Michael Melnick argued against the delay, citing the workload associated with the changing of the trial date.

“We have a multitude of out-of-state witnesses we intend to bring in,” Melnick said. “It takes a lot of work. A continuance is unwarranted.”

Olszewski denied D’Andrea and Walker’s request but did push the trial date back six weeks.

Cuadra previously attempted to hire attorney Demetrius Fannick to represent him, but Olszewski blocked this move because Fannick had met with Kerekes several times, which the judge said presented a conflict of interest. Cuadra submitted several petitions to overturn Olszewski’s ruling, but the State Superior Court refused to review them.

Last summer, Olszewski removed Cuadra attorney Paul Galante and Kerkes attorney Mark Bufalino because the two worked for the same law firm.

Olszewski warned Cuadra’s new attorneys that he would not permit them to be removed from the case under any circumstances.

“Your client has a penchant for liking to obtain new counsel and asking for continuances,” Olszewski told D’Andrea and Walker.

“If you’re in, I’m not letting you out. Mr. Cuadra could jump up and down and make a scene. He could carry on all he wants. I’m not letting you out.”

If convicted, Cuadra could face the death penalty.

Jen Colletta can be reached at [email protected]