Accused killer Sean Kratz is likely to take the stand at his own upcoming trial.
Defense attorney Charles Peruto Jr. said his client, the 22-year-old Philadelphia resident, is expected to testify at the trial that begins at the Justice Center in Doylestown Wednesday morning.
Kratz is charged in the July 2017 the killings of Dean Finocchiaro, 19, of Middletown; Thomas Meo, 21, of Plumstead Township; and Mark Sturgis, 22, of Pennsburg, Montgomery County. His cousin, Cosmo DiNardo, 22, of Bensalem, took part in all three deaths and the murder of Jimi Patrick, 19, of Newtown Township, at his family’s farm in Solebury.
The death penalty is on the table for Kratz.
In statements made during a pre-trial conference before Bucks County Judge Jeffrey Finley on Monday, Peruto stated that he is building the defense for Kratz based on the alleged failings of his former attorney Craig Penglase.
Peruto said he plans to put Penglase on the stand.
The expected focus on Penglase during the trial comes after he was forced off the high-profile case in 2018 after he admitted to leaking a confession tape of Cosmo DiNardo, 22, of Bensalem, that was aired on TV. The outing of Penglase as the source behind the leak that rocked the Justice Center came after Kratz unexpectedly rejected a negotiated deal that would have sent him to state prison for 59 to 118 years. After 59 years, Kratz would have been eligible for parole.
“It’s the only shot we have in this case,” Peruto told the judge Monday.
The defense is expected to state that Penglase allegedly coerced and lied to Kratz, which led to him accepting the plea deal before turning it down, Deputy District Attorney Kate Kohler said.
Peruto said Monday that he will also make the case alleging that “Penglase is not an attorney” but an agent of law enforcement. He further added his client was “not of clear mind” when Penglase worked to broker a deal with prosecutors.
Prosecutors asked the judge to consider allowing them to let the jury to view two large ATVs that Kratz allegedly rode around the time of the killings. Prosecutors said they want to show the jury Kratz’s “level of physical capacity” in person and not via photographs.
First Assistant District Attorney Gregg Shore explained to the court that the district attorney’s office has plans to place the ATVs outside the Justice Center in a secure area. The review by the jury could come as soon as Thursday.
Finley raised concerns about exposing the jury to an uncontrolled outside display and letting them see Kratz in shackles when he is brought down.
“We don’t have control over the public in a setting like that,” the judge said.
Shore stated the ATVs are a “critical part of the case.”
The judge stated he will work with the sheriff’s office on security and possibly putting the ATVs in the Justice Center’s sally port, a more controlled setting.
The prosecution talked about a previous effort to display a metal pig roaster and backhoe Kratz and DiNardo used to try to attempt to cover up the deaths.
The larger pieces of evidence are stored at the old Thiokol property owned by the county in Bristol Township.
Shore stated that photos of the four men’s bodies will be shown during the trial as evidence.
Members of the victims’ families are expected to testify at trial.
Recorded statements from Kratz to authorities will be played in court.
The judge sternly told Peruto to make sure his client is prepared for court Wednesday.
Kratz engaged with his attorneys but said nothing for the court to hear during Monday’s conference. While he wore a mustard-yellow prison jumpsuit on Monday, his mother will provide a suit for him to wear on Wednesday.