Amity Police Cpl. Glenn J. Oesterling, 35, Douglassville, was ordered July 25 to stand trial on four counts of retail theft, receiving stolen property and summary retail theft for two shoplifting incidents at the Giant Food Store, Upland Square Shopping Center, Stowe.
Montgomery County District Justice Scott T. Palladino said after more than an hour of arguments that Oesterling’s shoplifting incidents on June 12 and 18 followed “the same course of events of bypassing point of sale” and ordered him to trial on all three charges.
Oesterling’s attorney, Adam Sager, Pottstown, argued that the store’s asset protection officer didn’t have continuous visual contact of Oesterling putting all the merchandise into reusable blue shopping bags on June 12, did not verify at any of the registers that none of the merchandise was paid for, and that he also did not detain Oesterling during that first incident.
That merchandise was valued at approximately $38.04.
Sager said Oesterling, a 12-year veteran of the department, likely hadn’t finished his shopping on June 18 when he was detained by an asset protection officer in the store’s vestibule area, before Oesterling had actually left the store with the merchandise valued at approximately $296.35.
“The best that they have is that he may have taken a Gatorade, but they did not allow him to fully leave -- especially when has physical displays outside,” said Sager.
Sager said the asset protection officer, Brian Weeks, never asked Oesterling if he was finished shopping or if he intended to pay for the merchandise.
Weeks said Oesterling had left his wallet in his vehicle, but upon its retrieval Oesterling, accompanied by Weeks, never told him that he would purchase the merchandise and only stated that he was a cop.
“He got caught when he didn’t think he’d get caught -- with three kids and packaging it up to look like it was paid for,” said Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Heather Hines during closing arguments.
Oesterling’s arraignment is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Sept. 11 at the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas in Norristown.
On July 23, two days before Oesterling’s preliminary hearing, Amity Township Supervisor Robert R. Yanos, in a phone interview with Southern Berks News, confirmed on July 23 that Amity Township Police Officer Glenn Oesterling was suspended without pay following charges being filed against him on July 1 for retail theft and receiving stolen property.
Yanos contacted Southern Berks News after reading the July 24 edition that includes an article of the Board ofSupervisor’s July 17 meeting.
He said he was on vacation at the time of the July 17 meeting, which was led by Board Chairperson Kimberly J. McGrath.
Supervisor Richard L. Gokey was also absent from the July 17 meeting.
At that meeting, supervisors Terry L. Jones and Paul R. Weller told the press that they should have verified their facts regarding Oesterling before printing articles that said he had been charged and suspended from the force without pay, and which also contained Yanos’ statements that the board had violated the Sunshine Act on July 3.
Yanos had previously told The Mercury that disciplinary action was taken by Amity Township Police Chief Kent A. Shuebrook after the charges had been filed by the West Pottsgrove Police Department on July 1.
He further stated to The Mercury that the Board of Supervisors should have announced to the public on July 3 that charges were filed, that Shuebrook had taken action against Oesterling, that the board had “agreed” with that action in its July 3 executive session, and that the board violated the Sunshine Act by then not voting in public or announcing the situation to the public.
“What you printed could not be further from the truth,” said Weller on July 17. “We have talked with the police, the lawyer, and we followed the advice of legal counsel, and to throw the rest of the board under the bus is wrong. You people should check it before putting anything in the newspaper.”
While some members of the board may have exercised their rights to not “make public” details of the executive session -- because the matter was in a grey area of the Sunshine Act -- Yanos said he also had a right to exercise his First Amendment right to free speech by speaking to the press of public documents.
He said, though, that he hadn’t realized that Jones, McGrath, and Weller intended to deny that any action was taken and said that would only result in “egg on their faces” and the public’s suspicion that the board is trying to hide something.
“Didn’t they learn anything from the Jerry Sandusky case?” questioned Yanos, referring to the information not disclosed by Penn State University officials and which led to sanctions by the NCAA.
Frank Otto, reporter at The Mercury, also owned by 21st Century Media, printed Yanos’ statements on July 9 and the statement Shuebrook made to him that “Oesterling is suspended without pay pending an investigation. A preliminary hearing is scheduled July 25.”
A phone call to Shuebrook on July 18 requesting clarification of Oesterling’s status was not returned.
“The charges are public information and The Mercury did their research,” said Yanos, adding, “I did not violate the confidence of the Board of Supervisors and I did not release information that wasn’t public information.”
“I don’t know why they chose not to reveal it to the public,” said Yanos on July 23, adding, “and I don’t know why they are trying to keep it a secret now. No one told me to keep it a secret -- no one could tell me to keep a public document secret. Eventually, the truth would come out.”
“Chief Shuebrook took appropriate action,” said Yanos. “He would not have suspended Oesterling without charges being filed, and he told The Mercury that Oesterling was suspended without pay. We should have announced that action was taken.”
Yanos said the township, which oversees the police department, could not allow Oesterling to continue his patrol duties once charges were filed.
He said it is unfortunate that Oesterling was arrested for shoplifting and has been charged and suspended, but that there are many qualified police officer candidates looking for employment.