By Rick Hiduk
(Also published in the Rocket-Courier)
Jeffery Allen Owen, 38, of Nicholson is back behind bars after a failed attempt to attack magisterial district judge Carl Smith on the first floor of the Wyoming County Courthouse on April 8. Owen was wanted on a bench warrant following arrests in February and March for drug possession and use/possession of paraphernalia and had come to the courthouse to face the charges in front of Judge Smith.
According to an affidavit of probable cause filed by Tunkhannock Borough patrolman Dustin Cokely, Owens was approximately 50 minutes late for his scheduled appointment. Smith had already bound the charges over to the Court of Common Pleas but summed sheriff’s deputy Patrick Butkiewicz when Owen arrived to take him to the probation office on the third floor where he voluntarily provided urine for a drug screening. The test showed positive results for both methamphetamine and THC.
The findings put Owens in violation of his bail conditions and subject to immediate processing for same. Butkiewicz and probation officer Benjamin Hickock proceeded to escort Owen, who was now handcuffed, back downstairs to the sheriff’s office via the elevator, the ground floor opening of which is just across the hall from the entrance to Smith’s office. Cokely reported that Owen had become increasingly agitated, insisted that he be allowed to speak with the judge again, and began spouting obscenities.
As they exited the elevator and turned right toward the sheriff’s office, Owen recognized Smith walking down the hallway ahead of them and started screaming obscenities at the judge, who turned around and told Butkiewicz to charge Owen additionally for disorderly conduct and harassment via lewd communication.
Owens went into a rage and attempted to break free from the officers and lunge at Smith a few feet away. A struggle ensued, and Owens reportedly failed to obey commands that he cease his actions and continued instead to reach for Smith. Owens was taken to the ground at least twice by the officers, with Butkiewicz’s hand being injured and somehow cut in the process. Butkiewicz was observed to be bleeding from his hand.
When he finally calmed down, Owen was taken to the borough police office, where he was processed by Cokely and transported to the Wyoming County Correctional Facility on the bench warrant. According to Cokely, video surveillance footage clearly shows Owen trying to get away from the officers to attack Smith, and act that was further corroborated by several witnesses on the scene.
In addition to the aforementioned charges, Owen faces charges for aggravated assault and simple assault, criminal attempt to commit both, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct as it pertains to engaging in fighting. His preliminary hearing is set for April 23.