A former Berks County police officer accused of shoplifting more than $300 in groceries from a West Pottsgrove store has withdrawn his request for a judicial review and dismissal of the charges.
'At this stage, it is being withdrawn without prejudice,' Montgomery County Judge Steven T. O'Neill said Tuesday, referring to the previous request for dismissal made by former Amity Township Police Officer Glenn James Oesterling, who faces charges of retail theft and receiving stolen property in connection with alleged shoplifting incidents at the Upland Square Giant store in June 2013.
In a habeas corpus petition filed late last year, defense lawyer Adam Sager, on behalf of Oesterling, asked a judge to dismiss the charges and to re-examine the previous decision by a district court judge, who found prosecutors presented sufficient evidence, or 'a prima facie case,' at a preliminary hearing to move the case to trial. Judge O'Neill was slated to hold a hearing on that request on Tuesday but Oesterling, a 12-year veteran corporal of the police force who was fired by Amity Township supervisors last year, left the courthouse without a resolution to his case.
'After a discussion with my client, while we think that we have very good defenses, we do concede that the court would probably find that there was a prima facie case established by the commonwealth if we went through with the habeas corpus petition. Therefore, we voluntarily, and without prejudice, withdrew the habeas petition,' Sager explained.
Nothing would prevent Oesterling from refiling a request for judicial review prior to trial.
Assistant District Attorney Heather Hines previously vowed to fight any move by Oesterling to dismiss the charges and was prepared with witnesses, including West Pottsgrove police officers and Giant store employees who were in court, to wage that fight during Tuesday's scheduled hearing.
Explaining the current status of the case, O'Neill added, 'It is on track for trial and ARD (Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition) consideration.'
The ARD program, which is reserved for first-time offenders of non-violent crimes, allows offenders to clear their records after successfully completing a period of probation. The judge's comment would seem to indicate that Oesterling might be contemplating filing a request for ARD consideration prior to trial.
Oesterling potentially faces two to four years in prison if convicted of the charges. He was charged by West Pottsgrove police in July in connection with 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.
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 with blue reusable grocery bags in the cart, 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 valued at $296.35 in Oesterling's possession.