Luzerne County Judge Ann Lokuta stands outside Courtroom 2 in Harrisburg, where a panel of three judges from the state’s Court of Judicial Discipline is hearing Lokuta’s trial on misconduct charges. Tuesday was the second day of testimony.Don Carey/The Times Leader
HARRISBURG – Deputy Court Administrator P.J. Adonizio was minutes away from taking his wife to the doctor’s office regarding her serious surgery.
But Judge Ann Lokuta wanted to see him – immediately. And she came to the third floor looking for him.
They met in a hallway, where Adonizio on Tuesday said he tried to explain to the judge why he couldn’t meet with her.
Lokuta didn’t want to hear it, Adonizio testified.
“Don’t talk to me that way,” Lokuta boomed, according to Adonizio.
“She started to run around in circles,” he said.
Adonizio, in his testimony, got up from the witness chair, threw his arms in the air and spun halfway around shouting: “He’s harassing me! Get him away from me!”
That was Adonizio’s re-enactment of how Lokuta reacted when he tried to calmly explain to her the situation back in June 2004.
“She was jumping around,” Adonizio testified. “I stood there in disbelief.”
The whole encounter was witnessed or heard by at least five others who supported Adonizio’s story.
And they all told their version to the panel of three judges from the state’s Court of Judicial Discipline hearing Lokuta’s trial on misconduct charges.
The state’s Judicial Conduct Board filed a list of charges against Lokuta last year, claiming she violated judicial code and the state’s constitution through some of her actions and handling of cases.
One of her questionable actions comes from the encounter with Adonizio.
He testified about it Tuesday, saying he was in the court administrator’s office and headed out of the courthouse to meet his wife.
Lokuta’s tip staff, Maureen Gushanas, came in the office. Adonizio said he explained to Gushanas why he couldn’t meet with the judge.
Gushanas, Adonizio testified, told him loudly: “I’m not telling her that.”
Adonizio started to walk away, down a courthouse hallway, when he saw Lokuta nearing him, he said.
That’s when she blew up, he testified.
Adonizio wasn’t the only one to hear or see the outburst.
Judge Michael Conahan heard it inside his courtroom.
Secretary Theresa Hannon heard it by the court administrator’s office.
Tip staff Mike Onderko saw it as he got off an elevator.
Deputy Sheriff Michelle Klinefelter heard it in court.
And Harold Refowich saw it from the jury office down the hall.
“I heard this ungodly outburst,” Hannon testified.
She thought it was a defendant or a victim of a crime.
“I saw that it was Judge Lokuta,” Hannon said. “I saw her pacing around ... throwing her hands up.”
But Lokuta later claimed Adonizio was “menacing” her.
And her attorney, Louis Sinatra, aimed a pointed question at Adonizio in his cross-examination Tuesday.
“Mr. Adonizio, you were totally out of control that day, weren’t you?” Sinatra asked.
“No, I was not,” Adonizio responded.
Sinatra argued Adonizio kept approaching Lokuta, even after she claimed he was harassing her and as she tried to get into the elevator.
But the other witnesses said Adonizio was relatively calm.
Lokuta, they said, was loud.
They said she was irrational.
They said she was angry.
None of them saw Adonizio make contact with Lokuta.
Conahan later ordered an investigation of the incident.
But Sinatra pointed out how Lokuta and Gushanas were never even interviewed during the investigation, which found Gushanas to be menacing.
Sinatra on Tuesday was not allowed to question Adonizio about whether his job was full-time, noting he also operates a business. Sinatra also was not allowed to question Refowich, now an employee with the county’s domestic relations services, about his positions.
Sinatra wanted to show that Refowich’s positions are jobs filled by the president judge. That, Sinatra argued, would show bias towards his client.
Testimony will continue throughout the week. The trial was expected to conclude this week, but Judge Richard Sprague on Tuesday said he will discuss another set of dates to come back and finish.
If the court finds that Lokuta violated judicial code or the state’s constitution, Lokuta could face reprimand, suspension, or removal from her $152,000 position and a loss of her pension.
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