John DeSisti accused of threatening prosecution members
The criminal case involving John J. DeSisti recently took an unexpected turn, with allegations being made by the Pennsylvania Attorney General's office that the defendant had made threats and planned violent retaliatory actions against those involved in the prosecution of the case.
A hearing is scheduled on Friday before Bradford County Judge Maureen Beirne, in which the attorney general's office will ask that DeSisti - who has been incarcerated at the Bradford County Correctional Facility - be forbidden to have visits or telephone calls at jail with anyone other than his legal representatives. According to court papers, the attorney general's office is contending that in some recordings made at the jail of conversations between DeSisti and his wife Nancy DeSisti, the defendant made reference to cutting the throats of some of those involved in the prosecution of the case.
Bradford County Warden Don Stewart explained on Monday that all communication between inmates and visitors is recorded at the jail - both telephone calls and visitation calls. Visitation calls, Stewart continued, involve an inmate sitting on one side of a glass wall, while the visitor sits on the other, and they can talk to each other via a communication system shared between them. Before each conversation begins - either via telephone or the visitation system - the inmate is informed that the discussion will be recorded and monitored, Stewart said. If the inmate agrees to this, he or she pushes a button and is allowed to speak to the person on the other end.
The only inmate contact with an outside person they don't record at the jail is with legal counsel, the warden explained. Inmates who need to speak to their attorneys or other legal representatives are given the use of a room in which they have direct contact with each other, and in which their conversations are kept private.
Although they record every conversation between every inmate and their visitors, Stewart continued, staff members at the jail don't listen to each one. He explained that they record a large number of conversations a week, and would never be able to keep up with all the discussions recorded between the inmates and their visitors. The only time a corrections officer will listen to a conversation is when there's probable cause to conduct an investigation, the warden said.
Stewart also emphasized that telephone conversations coming into the jail are not recorded. A person calling into the jail cannot contact an inmate, the warden said. The only way an inmate can directly contact someone on the outside is via telephone and it is only those telephone conversations that are recorded.
John DeSisti, of Waverly, N.Y., is accused of having entered David and Carol Keeffe's home in November 2006, and killing them with a shotgun. A grand jury investigation conducted into the case revealed that DeSisti and Carol Keeffe, who are cousins, were involved in a property dispute in New York State at the time of the killings, in which DeSisti was reported to have built a house on property owned by Carol Keeffe. This and other evidence presented at the hearing led to a recommendation by the grand jury in September to file charges against DeSisti in connection with the Keeffe's deaths. DeSisti has remained incarcerated in the Bradford County Correctional Facility since being charged with two counts of murder in connection with the killings of David and Carol Keeffe.
Court papers indicated that another grand jury investigation is being conducted into the post arrest activities of John DeSisti and members of his family. On April 27, the papers continued, Nancy DeSisti appeared before the grand jury, in which she initially said she would decline to answer any questions based on her Fifth Amendment right. Following an in-camera session with the grand jury supervising judge, the papers said, Nancy DeSisti again was questioned in front of the grand jury, and selectively asserted her Fifth Amendment rights during the questioning.
When asked during the hearing if she had ever heard John DeSisti say anything about anybody getting their throats cut, the papers stated, Nancy DeSisti refused to answer the question, citing spousal privilege. A recording of a conversation between Nancy DeSisti and John DeSisti, made on March 11, 2011, was then played for Nancy DeSisti. In the conversation, John DeSisti and Nancy DeSisti are discussing his upcoming appearance in court, and John DeSisti is complaining about not being able to interact with Nancy DeSisti. This lead to the following exchange, the papers stated:
John DeSisti: "Son of a bitch, I'll tell you."
Nancy Desisti: "I know. Don't even think about it, Johnny. You got to make the best of it, like we do. It's not easy. I know that it's not easy for us, though it's got to be worse for you. But when this is over (pause) we'll take care of everything."
John DeSisti: "I want both their throats cut, both of them."
Nancy DeSisti: "Okay."
John DeSisti: "Capisci?"
Nancy DeSisti: "Okay, all right."
At the hearing on April 27, Nancy DeSisti invoked the Fifth Amendment on several occasions, including when asked if state police Trooper Jeffrey Sredenschek was one of the individuals targeted in John DeSisti's throat cutting order. Sredenschek was initially assigned as the lead investigator in the murder investigation, including obtaining and executing a warrant to search John DeSisti's residence and interviewing him in connection with the case, as well as serving as co-affiant in serving the arrest warrant on John DeSisti, and arresting him in the process.
Court papers indicated that Sredenschek had previously been a subject of the following conversation between John DeSisti and Nancy DeSisti recorded at the Bradford County jail on Feb. 14, 2011.
John DeSisti: "Sredenschek."
Nancy DeSisti: "Yeah, what about him?"
John DeSisti: "Remember that name."
Nancy DeSisti: "Sredenschek, I remember him, very vividly, yeah."
John DeSisti: "Yeah."
Nancy DeSisti: "What about him?"
John DeSisti: "I just want you to remember that name."
Nancy DeSisti: "Oh, I ..."
John DeSisti: "And I want to tell Johnny (son of defendant and Nancy) about him."
Nancy DeSisti: "All right. No I remember him, very vividly."
According to a recording made at the jail on March 15, the papers continued, Nancy DeSisti encouraged John DeSisti to stay strong, and then said:
Nancy DeSisti: "Please, just do that for me, because when this ends, believe me, there's going to be heads that will roll."
When asked at the grand jury hearing on April 27 if she had made that statement, Nancy DeSisti again invoked her Fifth Amendment rights.
On March 23, the papers said, a conversation was recorded at the jail between Nancy DeSisti and her husband about what the authorities were "doing to" John DeSisti. During the conversation, Nancy DeSisti was recorded as saying:
Nancy DeSisti: "It's going to turn right around and bite them in the ass."
At the April 27 grand jury hearing, when Nancy DeSisti was asked who was going to be "bitten in the ass," she replied "Everybody who is out to get him (John DeSisti)." During her testimony, Nancy DeSisti denied that the statement was in any way a threat.
On March 28, another conversation was recorded at the Bradford County jail, in which John DeSisti asked Nancy DeSisti why he can't get a hearing, to which Nancy DeSisti replied: "Because they rule the roost. The attorney general runs the frickin' show, okay if he dies, maybe someone else will come in."
When questioned during the grand jury hearing about who she was referring to, Nancy DeSisti declined to answer on Fifth Amendment grounds.
Another conversation between Nancy and John DeSisti was recorded at the Bradford County jail on April 8:
John DeSisti: "I'm in here, that son of a bitch."
Nancy DeSisti: "Somebody's going to pay, don't worry."
Nancy DeSisti again invoked her Fifth Amendment rights when asked during the grand jury investigation, who she was referring to during the conversation with her husband. As a result of the conversations recorded at the prison, Nancy DeSisti was served a subpoena to appear before the grand jury. During the same meeting she had with John DeSisti on April 8, a further recording of the following conversation was made:
John DeSisti: "What does it mean, Nancy?
Nancy DeSisti: Something about our testimony, they want to go over with us. I am hoping that they all blow up."
During the hearing on April 24, this recording was played for Nancy DeSisti, and was asked if she was referring to the grand jury that she was appearing before. Nancy DeSisti once again declined to answer on grounds of the Fifth Amendment.
C.J. Marshall can be reached at (570) 265-1630; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.