Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Judge orders release of dying defendant in Evesham attempted murder case

Posted: May 12, 2017

John Teti during recent hospitalization
A dying 79-year-old man charged with attempted murder will be placed into the custody of his niece after a Burlington County Superior Court judge ordered his release from state prison, where he had been awaiting trial.
The prosecution and defense now agree that a trial will likely never happen.
Judge Jeanne T. Covert consented to an agreement reached by both sides that imposes strict conditions on John Teti, a Barrington, Camden County, man who has been incarcerated since his arrest in March 2016 and subsequent indictment in the near-fatal strangling and assault of his estranged wife outside the Evesham home where she lives.
In ordering Teti's release, Covert outlined the conditions, including that his niece, Debra Loggia, of Evesham, provide 24-hour supervision.
No weapons are allowed in the home, and Teti must obey an existing restraining order that mandates no contact with his 69-year-old wife or her family.
“Are you willing to accept this burden?” Covert asked Loggia. “It is an awesome responsibility you are undertaking.”
“Yes, your honor,” she replied.
Loggia has been fighting since February to have the court set aside the $250,000 cash bail and release her uncle into her custody on compassionate grounds, after doctors determined that lung cancer diagnosed after his arrest was terminal. Doctors found that the cancer had spread to his bones and that his health was quickly deteriorating.
The family of Joan Teti, who lives about a mile from Loggia, has steadfastly opposed his release. Joan Teti and family members attended Friday's hearing at the Burlington County Courthouse in Mount Holly, but declined to comment afterward.
Covert acknowledged that the case was “highly emotional” for both families.
“And I have empathy for that,” she said.
In a letter to Covert, Joan Teti wrote why she opposed releasing her estranged husband of 30 years, whom she said she still fears. The judge pointed out that the case against Teti isn’t a “whodunit” and that his wife’s fear is legitimate.
“She is terrified, frankly,” Covert said. “This is very real for this victim.”
John Teti was unable to attend the hearing because of his poor health, public defender Jennifer Weiler said.
He has been incarcerated in South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton, Cumberland County, since March because the Burlington County Jail in Mount Holly was not equipped to handle his extensive medical care.
Burlington County taxpayers have spent more than $340,000 for Teti’s medical care, including an extended hospital stay in February, during which he received palliative radiation treatments.
After Teti was diagnosed with terminal cancer in February, the prosecution and defense agreed to postpone the trial until April. At an April case management hearing, both sides and Covert acknowledged that Teti’s increasingly poor health made it highly unlikely he could endure a trial, but that Teti’s attorney would still need to file a motion to dismiss the case.
A May 4 medical report prepared by the New Jersey Department of Corrections' managing doctor, who examined Teti, stated that his weight had dropped to 104 pounds and that his condition will continue to “aggressively” decline.
Teti cannot stand or walk unassisted. Given his frailty and worsening health, it would be highly unlikely he could reoffend, Weiler said, quoting the medical report.
The state doctor estimated Teti’s life expectancy at no more than six months — three months more than doctors estimated in February.
Covert noted that given Teti’s medical prognosis, it would be “unconscionable” for his family to leave him alone if he were released. She also said that life expectancy estimates are not an exact science, but that the medical reports indicate Teti is unable to get around on his own.
Debra Loggia 
Covert ordered that Teti be released as soon as possible.
“The goal is it will happen quickly,” she said.
Before that happens, though, Loggia must provide proof that she has hospice arrangements and that any nurses responsible for Teti’s care understand the court-ordered conditions of his release.
After Friday's hearing, Loggia said she is relieved her uncle will die with family instead of prison guards. But her fight isn’t over.
She said she has filed complaints with the New Jersey Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct and the Office of the Attorney General alleging that the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office, Covert, and Superior Court Judge Thomas Kelly, who oversaw bail hearings in the case, intentionally attempted to delay releasing Teti despite evidence that he was too sick to undergo trial.
A spokesman for the committee in Trenton said complaints are not public unless they are found to have merit and forwarded to the New Jersey Supreme Court for review. This news organization was unsuccessful in reaching the AG’s office for comment.
"While I'm so grateful this ordeal is over, I am still troubled that my uncle spent three months in prison with no hope of a trial,” Loggia said after the hearing. “We really rely upon our judges to mitigate overreach by prosecutors, and in this case I do not believe that happened."

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