By Pat Bywater
The target of a month-long manhunt will remain in the Crawford County jail through his trial, which will be set for a yet-to-be-determined day during the May term of criminal court.
Jason Michael Csorba’s bid to be freed on bond was rejected by Crawford County Court of Common Pleas Judge John Spataro during a Friday morning bench warrant hearing.
A bench warrant had been issued for Csorba after he failed to appear in court in January to face charges of assault, terroristic threats and illegally possessing a firearm. He had been free on $60,000 bond pending court action.
Csorba had been charged after a July 16, 2012, incident on Philadephia Road in Beaver Township, were Csorba was living at the time. State police said Csorba confronted a neighbor about walking on a road abutting their properties. During the incident, Csorba pulled a gun and threatened to shoot the neighbor’s pets, the neighbor and the neighbor’s wife. The state trooper who investigated that incident also said he found drug paraphernalia on Csorba and that Csorba was to not have firearms due to a past drug conviction.
After the bench warrant was issued, the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office featured Csorba in a January edition of the Crawford County’s Most Wanted feature, which is published in The Meadville Tribune each Tuesday. Soon after, tips generated by readers of the feature set authorities on Csorba’s trail in western Crawford County. Law enforcers warned that Csorba was considered armed and dangerous.
The 34-year-old eluded local and federal authorities in Pennsylvania and Ohio for about a month until his March 18 arrest in Pierpont, Ohio, where he had to be subdued with a Taser after running from officers.
In court Friday, Crawford County Assistant District Attorney Christopher Strem asked the judge to deny bond or, failing that, set high bond of somewhere around $200,000.
Strem built his justification for this request by stressing that Csorba has little to lose by running from the law again, that the past effort to capture Csorba required significant effort on the part of law enforcers and that a considerable number of people would be distressed if Csorba was freed on bond.
Strem pointed out that if convicted, Csorba will likely face several years in a state prison due to the severity of the charges and the fact that Csorba was convicted of a felony drug charge in 2005. Strem said that the case against Csorba is strong because it is backed up by three eyewitnesses and recordings of statements Csorba made while in jail.
Strem also cited a letter provided by Crawford County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Neil Fratus that detailed the time and effort expended by law enforcers to apprehend Csorba. Judge Spataro read the letter into the court record.
Fratus wrote in the letter that law enforcers across two states had spent “many hours” and “countless days” in the manhunt for Csorba. On at least two occasions, Csorba fled within moments of officers arriving. Fratus wrote that law enforcers involved in the search — ranging from U.S. Marshals to Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Deputies and other agencies — searched more than 50 homes in Pennsylvania and Ohio and that the Sheriff’s Office received numerous calls from residents concerned about their safety.
“I believe he needs to stay locked up,” wrote Fratus. “I believe that if he is let out we will be doing this again.”
Strem also said that the alleged victims in the July 16, 2012, incident were literally worried sick while Csorba was on the run. “They have been very scared,” he said.
It was during this part of the hearing that Csorba showed a visible reaction — shaking his head slowly from side to side. He did not speak during the hearing.
Representing Csorba on behalf of the Crawford County Public Defender’s Office, attorney Bruce Barrett countered that Csorba was not the threat many perceived him to be.
Barrett suggested that much of the public concern about Csorba was “stirred up” by numerous news stories published while he was on the run. He said that Csorba was “no danger or threat” and that he was not armed when he was captured. Barrett also pointed out that Csorba did not leave the region while law enforcers were looking for him.
In justifying his denial of bond, Judge Spataro indicated that he did not think allowing Csorba to leave jail on a higher bond would be enough to ensure Csorba would appear for court. “Bail was set appropriately high and notwithstanding, he went on the run,” Spataro said. “He could have easily turned himself in” at any point during the manhunt, the judge noted.
Spataro reviewed the factors the law requires him consider regarding bond requests, which includes past history, ties to the community, employment history and more. Based on those factors, he said, “this case compels the court to revoke bond.”
During the hearing, it was noted that in future court actions, Csorba would be represented by an attorney appointed from outside the Public Defender’s Office. Barrett had previously withdrawn from the case because Csorba refused to cooperate in his own defense. As a result, the Public Defender’s Office appointed an outside attorney.
Pat Bywater can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.