President Judge Fredric J. Ammerman declared a mistrial due to an unusual set of circumstances in the case of accused drug dealer Daniel Peteuil, 44, of Clearfield yesterday.
Peteuil is accused of being caught in DuBois with a large amount of drugs in his vehicle and is charged with two felony counts of manufacture, delivery, or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver, three felony counts of conspiracy — manufacture, delivery, or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver; and dealing in proceeds of unlawful activity and criminal use of communication facility, both felonies, according to a previous article in The Progress.
Ammerman declared a mistrial after three jurors had to be excused. Juries must have a minimum of 12 members and there are only two alternates — and the loss of three jurors made it impossible to go forward.
Additionally, the case was declared a mistrial despite the defendant absconding and not showing up for trial.
Peteuil was free on $250,000 monetary bail, which he posted with the assistance of a bail bondsman.
Peteuil had been wearing an electronic monitoring bracelet and on Jan. 7, Peteuil went the Veteran’s Administration in Pittsburgh for an appointment and the bracelet showed he was there until 3:30 p.m.
However, at 4:04 p.m. Peteuil removed the bracelet and placed it in what appears to be a trash can at the bus stop on Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh.
On Jan. 14, Ammerman revoked Peteuil’s bail, forfeited his bond and issued a warrant for his arrest. The three-day trial was going to go forward starting yesterday whether or not Peteuil showed up.
An alternate juror was excused because she said she knew who Peteuil was, and she was having anxiety issues with participating in the trial. The juror said she was taking medication for her anxiety and she said in a letter she has a note from her doctor excusing her from the trial.
A second juror had to be excused because he was with someone who recently tested positive for COVID-19 and could not attend.
A third juror was excused because she read an article on a local online news site about the trial’s status and the defendant being at-large late last week.
Ammerman said when his secretary called the juror on Friday to remind her of the trial, the juror mentioned she had read the news story and that Peteuil was a major drug dealer in the area and was missing.
Ammerman said the article provided details about the case, specifically that Peteuil ran away and described Peteuil as a “major drug dealer.”
Ammerman voiced his displeasure with the article appearing so close to the start of the trial.
“It’s a free country, you have the absolute right to publish such an article,” Ammerman said. “But as far as I’m concerned, this was very, very ill-advised.”
Ammerman said in most cases, there is local media coverage when someone is arrested, when their preliminary hearing is held and if there is a hearing for pretrial motions — but usually there are a few months before a trial starts where there is no local news coverage until the trial actually begins.
Ammerman interviewed the juror in question who said she believed she could still be an objective juror in the case.
However, Ammerman said he doesn’t believe there is any way Peteuil could have a fair trial with a juror reading the article. To avoid going forward with the trial and have it overturned on appeal, Ammerman declared a mistrial.
Jury selection for the new trial will be held on Feb. 11 at the Expo 1 Building at the Clearfield Driving Park.
According to a previous article in The Progress, a Grand Jury was conducting an investigation into the distribution of a variety of controlled substances in Clearfield County including heroin, lysergic acid diethyl amide (LSD), marijuana, methamphetamine, fentanyl, cocaine, suboxone and psychedelic mushrooms, under the leadership of Peteuil. The investigation involved the combined law enforcement efforts of the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, the DuBois City Police Department, the Clearfield County Drug Task Force and the Clearfield County District Attorney’s Office.
An undercover narcotics agent appeared before the Grand Jury and testified that on June 7, 2019, Cpl. Randall Young of the city police department initiated a traffic stop on a Chevrolet Malibu in DuBois. The car was owned and operated by Peteuil, according to court documents.
During the traffic stop, Young became aware that Peteuil was on parole in Pennsylvania. A short time later, another agent arrived and conducted a search of Peteuil’s car and a gun was allegedly located in his car. He was taken into custody and eventually incarcerated at SCI-Benner.
Also, during the execution of a search warrant, investigators recovered approximately 12.87 grams of heroin combined with fentanyl, 239.13 grams of cocaine, .022 grams of fentanyl, 3 hits of LSD, 102.08 grams of methamphetamine, 4 suboxone strips, 111 suboxone pills, 448.70 grams of marijuana and 12.32 grams of psychedelic mushrooms, according to court documents.
Additionally, $52,223 in various denominations of U.S. currency, two pistols, a Key-Tec P32 automatic handgun, a .22 caliber pistol and various rounds of ammunition were recovered. The Grand Jury learned that Peteuil has a prior felony conviction for possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance. Accordingly, he is not permitted to possess nor own a firearm. The Grand Jury also learned that the Kel-Tec P32 automatic handgun had a fully loaded magazine inserted into the gun. However, a bullet was not chambered inside the barrel.
Also discovered during the search of Peteuil’s car was a receipt reflecting a payment of approximately $1,500. The payment was made by Peteuil to a local attorney for the purpose of providing legal services to an associate of Peteuil’s, who was arrested as a result of a traffic stop that occurred on May 16, 2019. The traffic stop resulted in the seizure of a large quantity of drugs, including 229.37 grams of marijuana, 33.79 grams of cocaine, 56.57 grams of methamphetamine, 665 stamped bags of heroin, 20 Xanax pill, 16 loaded syringes, as well as $9,024 in U.S. current. Peteuil’s associate said that the drugs had been placed by Peteuil, according to court documents.