Jim Boyle Sep. 16, 2014, 8:03am


A former Fayette County, Pa., judge faces criminal charges after a grand jury investigated claims that he allegedly dismissed a case against a now-convicted drunk driver for improper reasons, according to an announcement by state Attorney General Kathleen Kane.

Retired Magisterial District Judge Dwight K. Shaner, 71, of Dunbar, Pa., faces one felony count of perjury and one count of obstructing the administration of law. Shaner surrendered himself to authorities and was arraigned in Dauphin County on Friday.

According to the grand jury, the improperly dismissed case centered on a Pennsylvania State Police investigation into a hit-and-run  from suspected drunk driving in September 2011. The complaint was made by a Dunbar Township resident whose mailbox had been destroyed after being hit by a suspected drunk driver who fled the scene.

State police later located the drunk driver, Robert Rudnik of Connellsville, who was initially charged in October of 2011 with three counts of driving under the influence and one count of accidents involving damage to unattended property. Rudnik is the nephew of Common Pleas Court Judge Linda Cordaro. At the time of Rudnik's arrest, Cordaro was an assistant district attorney who prosecuted cases in Shaner's court.

According to the grand jury's findings, an odd series of events followed the arrest after which Shaner dismissed the charges at a preliminary hearing in December 2011.  At that proceeding, Shaner allegedly refused to grant a continuance requested by the state trooper assigned to the case, and dropped the charges.

Shaner's longtime secretary testified before the grand jury that she could not remember the magistrate ever denying a continuance in similar cases in the nearly two decades she worked there.

Shaner is charged with allegedly lying to the grand jury about his actions at the preliminary hearing, and his interactions with the state trooper who handled the case.

The defendant pled guilty in February 2014 and  was sentenced to six months of intermediate punishment, including 60 days of house arrest, ordered to pay all applicable fines and restitution for the damaged mailbox, and had his driver's license suspended for one year.

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