NORRISTOWN — A former Berks County police officer accused of shoplifting groceries on two occasions from a West Pottsgrove store wants separate trials on the charges.
Former Amity Township Police Officer Glenn James Oesterling, through his lawyer Adam Sager, filed papers in Montgomery County Court on Wednesday asking a judge to sever the two cases under which he faces charges of retail theft and receiving stolen property in connection with shoplifting incidents at the Upland Square Giant store in June 2013.
The first incident allegedly occurred June 12 and Oesterling was charged with a summary retail theft charge, based on the amount of the alleged theft, goods valued at $38.04. A summary offense is similar to a traffic citation. The second alleged shoplifting incident occurred June 18 and allegedly involved items valued at $296.35, for which Oesterling faces more serious misdemeanor charges of retail theft and receiving stolen property.
Sager maintained folding the alleged incidents into one trial would be prejudicial to Oesterling. Specifically, Sager argued that if a jury hears about two alleged incidents it may be “inappropriately persuaded that there was a common factor or a common practice” and would influence their decision regarding Oesterling’s guilt or innocence.
“(Oesterling) asserts that he will be highly prejudiced if a jury would hear both offenses since there is no link or nexus between the two incidents and that the witnesses, on behalf of the commonwealth, would be different individuals,” Sager wrote in court papers.
A judge could consider the severance request and could schedule a trial as early as next week.
Oesterling, a 12-year veteran corporal of the police force who was fired by Amity Township supervisors last year, remains free on bail pending trial. Oesterling potentially faces two to four years in prison if convicted of the charges.
Assistant District Attorney Heather Hines is prosecuting the case.
With the charges, authorities alleged Oesterling walked out of the Upland Square Giant on both June 12 and June 18 without paying for merchandise he placed into blue, reusable shopping bags in the shopping cart he was pushing.
According to a criminal complaint, a loss prevention officer with Giant observed a man leave the store on June 12 without paying for six items worth $38.04 in the reusable bags.
The loss prevention officer used store surveillance footage to confirm what the items were and that the man bypassed all points of sale, according to the criminal complaint. In the footage, the suspect was observed pushing a shopping cart with a child’s car attachment on the front and three small children riding on the cart in different positions, according to court papers.
Following that incident, the loss prevention officer printed photos of the man and “placed them in the office for review by other loss prevention officers,” according to the criminal complaint filed by West Pottsgrove Police Officer Joseph Ray Buchert.
Almost a week later, on June 18, another loss prevention officer observed a man, matching the description of the person captured in the June 12 photos, enter the store. The man was pushing a cart with the same three children in the same type of cart with blue reusable grocery bags, court papers alleged.
The loss prevention officer followed the man, later identified as Oesterling, around the store as he allegedly placed items into the reusable bags.
After moving toward the service desk, “the defendant then bypassed all points of sale and then exited the store,” the loss prevention officer told police, according to authorities.
The loss prevention officer stopped Oesterling in the store vestibule, where “the defendant then identified himself as a ‘cop,’” according to the complaint.
West Pottsgrove Police responded and the loss prevention officer alleged there were 53 store items totaling $296.35 in Oesterling’s possession.
Oesterling was charged by West Pottsgrove police in July in connection with the two alleged incidents of retail theft and initially was suspended from the Amity police force without pay. However, late last year, the township supervisors unanimously voted to fire Oesterling.
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