Former Wilkes professor joins ‘predator catcher’ petition | #childpredator | #onlinepredator | #sextrafficing

Edward Schicatano is the fourth defendant allegedly snared by Musa Harris to ask the state’s high court to exercise rarely used power

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Former Wilkes University professor Edward Schicatano, awaiting trial on charges he sent pornographic photos to an online predator catcher he believed was a teenage girl, joined a legal longshot this month in asking the state Supreme Court rule on the viability of child sex-sting prosecutions using citizen-gathered evidence.

Schicatano, 59, is the fourth person allegedly snared by Musa Harris — known online as the ‘Luzerne County Predator Catcher’ — to file a petition requesting the high court exercise its “King’s Bench” powers. That refers to the court’s rarely used authority to settle issues of “immediate public importance.”

The four petitions want the state Supreme Court to weigh in because they say appellate courts have not cleared up confusion on the issue created by contradictory lower court rulings.

“Without appellate guidance on this issue, private citizens will continue to organize stings like those described above and there will continue to be a split among the 6 counties of this Commonwealth as to the validity of these prosecutions,” wrote Schicatano’s attorney, Nandakumar Palissery. “Clearly, this has caused and will continue to cause a lack of uniformity amongst counties in the Commonwealth with the potential of the alleged crime possibly beginning in a county that does not recognize the validity of private citizens engaging in such acts and ending in a county which does.”

The defense attorneys argue that statutes under which prosecutors brought cases against their clients empower just the police to act as a child in undercover stings.

The Luzerne County district attorney’s office, in response, argued the use of “King’s Bench” powers is not the appropriate route.

The high court has not signaled if it will use those powers.

Police arrested Schicitano in August when they say he sent pornographic images to someone he believed was a young girl. When he tried to meet with the purported teenager in person, he realized it was Harris, who turned over chat lots, photos and video of the encounter to the police.

Schicitano taught neuroscience and psychology at Wilkes University from 1999 until last summer. In August, the university sent an email to students saying an unnamed staff member was fired over “serious allegations.”

Schicitano is free on unsecured bail while awaiting trial on counts including attempted unlawful contact with a minor, attempted dissemination of sexually explicit material to a minor and criminal use of a communication facility.

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