Father who died in Pottsville fire was to appear in court next week
by peter e. bortner and mark gilger jr.(staff writerspbortner@republicanhera ld.commgilgerjr@republicanhera ld.com)
Published: May 15, 2013
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Eric C. Brown, one of six people who died in the Sunday night fire in Pottsville, had been scheduled to be in court on May 22 to enter a guilty plea and be sentenced to prison in connection with three sets of charges.
Now, those charges will be dropped, First Assistant District Attorney Thomas J. Campion Jr. said Tuesday.
"We've had defendants pass away before and the charges were dropped," he said.
Brown, 30, of Pottsville, had signed a plea agreement under the terms of which he consented to be sentenced to serve three to 12 months in prison, with 23 months consecutive probation, and pay costs,$200 to the Substance Abuse Education Fund,$150 to the Criminal Justice Enhancement Account,$226 restitution to the state police crime laboratory in Bethlehem and $40 restitution to Pottsville police, and submit a DNA sample to law enforcement authorities.
Judge John E. Domalakes, who would have presided over the guilty plea hearing, could have rejected the plea agreement. If he had done so, prosecutors and Brown could have negotiated a new agreement or the defendant could have taken the cases to trial.
Brown had been charged in one case with three counts of endangering the welfare of children. Prosecutors would have withdrawn two of those counts under the terms of the plea agreement,
In that case, Pottsville police alleged that on Dec. 8, 2012, Brown allowed Jeremiah Brown, his then-6-year-old son, to wander the streets without a coat.
Police said they went to the Browns' 235 Pierce St. home and found Eric Brown had passed out after drinking and smoking marijuana. Jeremiah Brown left the home to find his mother to take care of him and his siblings, police said.
Police said they also found a 2-year-old boy, Elijah Brown, and a 3-year-old girl, Emily Brown, in the house.
According to Pennsylvania code, a child may be taken into protective custody through county Children and Youth Services if it is immediately necessary to protect him or her from further serious physical injury, sexual abuse or neglect as indicated through founded reports of abuse, medical evidence of abuse, or statements from the child or parents,
A child may not be held in protective custody for more than 24 hours without a court order.
County Children & Youth Director Lisa M. Stevens said Tuesday that due to confidentiality rules, she could neither confirm nor deny that the Brown children had been placed in foster care.
Eric Brown was arraigned by Magisterial District Judge David A. Plachko, Port Carbon, and committed to Schuylkill County Prison in lieu of posting 10 percent of $25,000 bail, police said.
That bail was later changed to $25,000 unsecured, and Eric Brown was free pending further court action.
In each of the other two cases, he had been charged with delivery of a controlled substance, possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, criminal use of a communication facility and possession of a controlled substance. Under the terms of the plea agreement, he would have pleaded guilty to all those charges.
Pottsville police had filed both of those sets of charges against Eric Brown, alleging he had sold $30 worth of a prescription drug on April 2, 2012, and $10 worth of heroin on April 24, 2012. Both incidents occurred in the city, according to police.
He was free pending further court action after posting $100, or 10 percent of $1,000 bail, in each of the two drug cases.
Assistant Public Defender Andrea L. Thompson, Eric Brown's lawyer, could not be reached Tuesday for comment on the case. She would still be bound by attorney-client privilege