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Man charged in Summit motel slaying will claim insanity

Posted on April 21st, 2020 at 8:54 AM

This article was originally published on www.goerie.com by Tim Hahn on April 20, 2020.

A Toronto man charged with beating a Summit Township motel clerk to death in July 2018 will claim he was legally insane at the time of the killing if his case goes to trial.

The lawyers for defendant Ferenc Sarkozy, 22, last month filed notice of their intent to use the insanity defense, court records show.

If the case goes to trial, the defense will argue that Sarkozy was so mentally ill that he did not understand his actions were wrong when he attacked 61-year-old Gregory Mogush at a Schultz Road Motel 6 on July 17, 2018.

The insanity defense creates the possibility that jurors could find Sarkozy not guilty by reason of insanity.

The filing came after Sarkozy received a mental health evaluation that found he is currently competent to stand trial, but was insane at the time of the killing, defense lawyer Stephen Sebald said.

The competency finding means that Sarkozy is now well enough to face trial — that he is able to participate in his defense and understand his charges — after receiving treatment.

“He’s competent only after some very serious psychotropic medication was given to him,” Sebald said.

Sarkozy faces charges of homicide and aggravated assault. He has been held at the Erie County Prison without bond since his arrest.

Sarkozy’s mental health evaluation has been filed under seal and is not available to the public.

Sebald declined to discuss details of Sarkozy’s mental illness, but previous court filings in the case indicated Sarkozy suffers from bipolar disorder, psychosis and hallucinations.

Sarkozy’s previous lawyer, Alison Scarpitti, was court-appointed. In her initial request for a competency evaluation, she wrote that Sarkozy was declined admission to a hospital outside of the Erie area days before the attack, when his family feared that his mental state made him a danger to himself and others.

Sarkozy’s family had to involve law enforcement to get Sarkozy mental health treatment several times in the past five years, Scarpitti wrote.

The prosecution is now seeking its own mental health evaluation of Sarkozy, according to court records.

Erie County District Attorney Jack Daneri said Monday that the prosecution’s expert will review more than one thousand pages of materials before examining Sarkozy.

At a trial, the defense and prosecution could both present testimony from the mental health professionals who examined Sarkozy if the two evaluations reach different conclusions.

Erie County Judge John J. Mead has given prosecutors three months to file a status report on their evaluation.

At Sarkozy’s preliminary hearing, in September 2018, Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Susan Edelmann testified that Sarkozy checked into the motel, at 7455 Schultz Road, on the night of July 16, 2018.

Sarkozy later told police that Mogush “disrespected him” by pointing a finger at him when Sarkozy wanted to make a phone call. Much of the attack that followed was caught on surveillance video, according to Edelmann’s testimony.

Sarkozy also admitted to police that he repeatedly hit and kicked Mogush, struck Mogush with a flashlight and tried to use a lighter to burn him during the attack, Edelmann testified. Sarkozy had blood on his face, his right hand and knuckles and his clothing, Edelmann said.

Mogush died of blunt-force trauma to the head, neck, face and abdomen, Erie County Coroner Lyell Cook ruled.

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Mr. Hackwelder and Mr. Sebald both worked very diligently to a resolution of a very serious case. My son was accused of a crime that would have cost him his freedom and caused irreparable harm to his reputation and his family unit. A conviction would have led to certain alienation of his rights as a father. My son, a provider and a family man was accused by a third party with an obvious agenda. Both Hackwelder and Sebald did exactly as the indicated at our first meeting. They said that this case would end up dismissed and it was. They were able to successfully demonstrate to the district attorney that there was no way that this case would be successfully prosecuted because of the lack of evidence, improper conduct and the overt agenda of the accusing party. I would not hesitate to ask Eric Hackwelder or Stephen Sebald to represent my loved ones again and you definitely shouldn't look any further.

 
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Attorney Sebald represented me in 2005 for a DUI. So when I was facing legal problems again in 2015 for getting 3 DUI's in a 5 month period due to an addiction to alcohol I knew I needed him to represent me again. Mr. Sebald truly cares about his clients. I met with him we discussed my case and what I was facing. He guided me on what I should do. He doesn't sugar coat things. Mr. Sebald is honest with you from the beginning and will do everything he can to get the best possible outcome. I was facing some pretty serious consequences and through his advice, guidance and representation I not only was able to avoid Jail time but also get help for my problem with alcohol. I truly believe if it weren't for him I would not be where I am today. After hiring Attorney Sebald he traveled to Lycoming county to represent me for my preliminary hearing and sentencing. He called and spoke with the D.A., judges as well as other attorneys in that area. He also represented me here in Erie county for my preliminary hearing as well as sentencing. He does his research. I would strongly recommend Mr Sebald to anyone who needs legal representation.

 
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