By The Associated Press - January 20, 2010
A Pennsylvania judge overseeing a murder case involving domestic violence allegations has been suspended from duty over criminal charges that he pushed and choked his wife on their first wedding anniversary. Sixty-one-year-old Perry County Senior Judge C. Joseph Rehkamp has been charged with simple assault and harassment and is also subject to a protection from abuse order. On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court suspended him from duty, including handling a case in which a man is accused of fatally shooting his estranged wife in front of two of her children. Rehkamp has not commented on the charges. He has been serving in shorthanded Luzerne County, where state police say the judge and his wife argued Saturday at their Plymouth Township home after celebrating at two Wilkes-Barre restaurants.
Details emerge on former Perry County judge accused in domestic dispute
Court documents reveal a night of discord between former Perry County president judge C. Joseph Rehkamp and his wife
Former Perry County president judge C. Joseph Rehkamp had been drinking Saturday night when he pushed his wife down “and started to choke her, leaving red marks,” court documents say. Valerie Rehkamp screamed and told her husband to leave their home in Plymouth Township, Luzerne County. According to the criminal complaint filed by Trooper Matthew Stacktish, Valerie Rehkamp’s son stopped the assault and Joseph Rehkamp left the home in his Ford Crown Victoria. Joseph Rehkamp, 61, later turned himself in and was arraigned about 6:30 p.m. Sunday. He is charged with misdemeanor assault and summary harassment. His preliminary hearing is set for 10 a.m. Jan. 26. It was not known Monday whether Rehkamp has an attorney. The conflict between the Rehkamps began earlier in the evening, court documents say, when Valerie Rehkamp told her husband he “did not act appropriately” during a dinner outing. Valerie Rehkamp told the judge to “sleep somewhere else” for the night, court documents say. Valerie Rehkamp’s son gave Trooper Stacktish a similar account of the evening, adding that his mother told Joseph Rehkamp not to enter the house. When he did, an argument ensued, with Joseph Rehkamp following his wife into their bedroom. Valerie Rehkamp’s son “related that he heard a lot of yelling and arguing,” court documents say. Returning to the living room, court documents say, the couple resumed arguing in front of Valerie Rehkamp’s son, followed by the assault.
Perry County District Attorney Charles “Chad” Chenot said that when he started working in Perry County 16 years ago, Rehkamp was a judge. “Surprised” is how he described his reaction to the news that Rehkamp faced criminal charges, Chenot said. “I’m not aware of any kind of this behavior in the past,” Chenot said. As a judge, he said, “I believe he tried to be very fair. He certainly presided over all kinds of cases, including domestic cases, so he certainly would be familiar with what people do when they’re in domestic conflict.” The outcome of the charges shouldn’t impact any closed cases, Chenot said, but if there are still a few Perry County motions that Rehkamp hasn’t finished since moving onto his new assignment it could affect those, he said.
Rehkamp resigned from his seat on the Perry/Juniata County Court of Common Pleas in 2008 but has since been appointed as a senior judge - fill-in judges who serve at the order of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. As such, Rehkamp was appointed on Oct. 1, 2008, to preside over two civil cases filed against former Cumberland County commissioner Bruce Barclay. Barclay resigned his county position in April 2008 after William McCurdy, who had been living with him, accused him of rape. Upon investigating, state police said Barclay had installed a hidden videotaping system in his home that proved the rape accusation false and led to McCurdy’s conviction on false report charges. However, it also led to the criminal charges Barclay is currently facing: patronizing prostitutes, unlawful use of computer, intercepting communications, unlawful duplication and 13 counts of invasion of privacy. Rehkamp is handling the case because Barclay used to work in the same courthouse as all of the Cumberland County judges. Rehkamp had been assigned to take over a capital murder case in Luzerne County for former Judge Michael T. Toole, who resigned from the bench and pleaded guilty last month to a fraud charge.