Suspended Police Chief Wants Jury Trial

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LEWISBURG -- A suspended police chief in Union County wants his fate decided by a jury.

Newswatch 16 first told you about Hartleton Chief Donald Zerbe in April before he was charged with theft by extortion.

Zerbe walked out of the Union County Courthouse ready to fight theft by extortion charges at trial.

"Chief Zerbe did not break the law, all he did is exercise the discretion that's afforded to him under the laws of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in disposing of cases promptly. And he did so in helping the children of the community along the way. Where's the crime in that?" asked his attorney Hank Clarke.

The suspended Hartleton police chief let his attorney do the talking after deciding not to enter a plea.

Instead, Zerbe wants a trial and twelve jurors who will decide if the longtime cop broke the law.

State police charged Zerbe earlier this year, saying the chief gave drivers a way out of speeding tickets if they made a donation to a playground fund.

Zerbe never denied it.

"If people in the community are going up to the chief. Saying fight this chief, we can't believe this is happening to you. Then we have no choice," added Clarke.

The chief has had the support of some in Hartleton. Bill Kerstetter owns a business in the borough and said if Zerbe gets the right jury, he could be acquitted.

"Most the people I talk to in this general area just seem to think he was trying to do a good thing, just probably shouldn't have done it the way he done it. That's Zerbe," said Kerstetter.

Still others can't believe Zerbe would make up his own rules to begin with and should be found guilty.

"They're going to look at him and say this is ridiculous, you should have known better, you're a police officer, you should know the law and what's right and wrong," said Adrienne James of Hartleton.

Jury selection for Donald Zerbe is scheduled for late October.