May 11, 2020

UPDATE: Mercer County DA, Peter Acker, Drops Citations Issued to Local Gym

Update: Last Friday on our PennPatriot Blog Facebook page we highlighted a situation in Hermitage PA. The District Attorney in Mercer County, Peter Acker, issued citations and fines to PREP Fitness a local gym owned by Joe Joseph. Mr. Joseph opened his businesses in violation of Governor Wolf’s Covid-19 orders.

On Friday at 3:20 in the afternoon, Hermitage Police Chief Eric Jewel and Mercer County District Attorney Peter Acker arrived at the fitness center and issued Joseph two citations for violation of administrative code and another for violation of the Disease Prevention and Control law.

Acker threatened Mr. Joseph with fines and even jail time if he did not comply with the Governor’s orders. Acker told the WKBN news that Joseph the owner of PREP Fitness would be fined between $10 to $50 for violation of administrative code and $25 to $300 dollars for violation of the Disease Prevention and Control law. If the fines aren't paid within 30 days, he will be faced with jail time.”

Tonight we are happy to report that Peter Acker, the Mercer County District Attorney has decided to drop the citations against Jim Joseph the owner of PREP Fitness in Hermitage PA. In the statement issued today, Acker explains why the citations were dropped.

Below is Acker’s statement:
“The initial filing of citations by Hermitage Police was proper; Mr. Joseph appears to be in clear violation of the orders of the Governor and the Secretary of Health. Mr. Joseph appears to be the only business in the county that was requested to close and refused to do so. 
The withdrawal of the citations should in no way be interpreted as a conclusion that Mr. Joseph was not in violation; he was and still is. We were hopeful that the issuance of citations on Friday and every subsequent day would convince Mr. Joseph to comply with the law; it obviously did not. 
It does not appear that Governor Wolf will open gyms anytime soon, unlikely this month and I saw no purpose to have 40 additional citations issued to Mr. Joseph for the rest of May…In the scope of the number of cases we have and their severity, I cannot justify the resources necessary to prosecute several dozen summary offenses (the lowest level of criminal charges, equivalent to the traffic ticket) on a recalcitrant business owner. 
We will continue to urge business owners to comply with the pending orders. Whether or not we will file charges will be determined on a case-by-case basis.”
We at PennPatriot Blog are happy that Acker has dropped the citations but firmly disagree with Acker’s interpretation of the law. The Disease Prevention and Control Law of 1955 does not give the Governor or the Secretary of Health the authority to regulate or shutdown commerce in the state during a pandemic. Nor does the law give a local District Attorney the authority to fine a business engaging in commerce during a pandemic.

Here is a link to the Disease Prevention and Control Law of 1955.

Below is the Mercer County District Attorney’s office contact information.

209 Mercer County Courthouse
Mercer, PA 16137-1295
Phone: (724) 662-7587

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