A Lebanon County farmer charged with a felony over an alleged physical altercation involving a Pennsylvania State Trooper during a September barn fire may have those charges reduced at a court date in December.
Tim Getz, 35, of Elco Road in Jackson Township, waived his preliminary hearing last week in front of District Justice Anthony Verna at the Walnut Street chambers after a recommendation by the Getz family attorney, Steven Breit of Lancaster.
Preliminary hearings are commonly waived in criminal cases, and waiving a preliminary hearing is not an admission of guilt in any way.
The case will now proceed to the Court of Common Pleas of Lebanon County, where an arraignment will be held Dec. 18, with the understanding that charges will be modified at that time, said Lebanon County District Attorney Dave Arnold
“I’m hesitant to discuss plea negotiations before a formal hearing, but his attorney and I have agreed to this course of action and I would have to assume his client agrees,” Arnold said. “If he (Getz) agrees, it will happen.”
Prior to the final disposition of the case, it is difficult to predict an outcome, Arnold said, but the court is working toward a 90-day Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) period – the equivalent of probation – and at the end of that time period charges will be dismissed.
“I know everybody has strong feelings about that (incident) and I think this is a fair result,” Arnold said of the potentially reduced charges.
Getz, a Jackson Township dairy farmer, was charged with assaulting Trooper Jorge DeJesus, who entered the burning barn during the evening of Sept. 4 and ordered Getz to get out of the smoke-filled structure.
At the time, Getz and a number of neighbors and relatives, including his brother, Todd, were frantically trying to rescue cattle from the burning building.
Despite their efforts, 24 cattle were lost to the blaze.
The county fire marshal has not determined a cause for the fire, which also destroyed the circa 1800s bank barn.
The dairy barn in the 400 block of Elco Road was owned by Marlin Getz, Tim’s father.
Trooper DeJesus alleged that Getz struck him, while the Getz family said Tim was thrown to the barn floor and sustained a head injury.
Getz was charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, and harassment.
He was arraigned before Magisterial District Judge Carl Garver and placed in Lebanon County Prison on $15,000 bail.
The following morning, his bail was paid by the family’s veterinarian, Dr. Gary Brummel.
Brother Todd Getz maintains that, at the time of the incident, amid the smoke, darkness, and confusion, Tim did not know he was interacting with a law enforcement officer.
Getz was taken to the Good Samaritan Hospital where he received treatment for the head injury.
Shortly after the fire, a petition to have the charges dropped against Getz was circulated throughout the area, garnering more than 20,000 signatures.
“Our lawyer recommended that we waive the preliminary hearing with the understanding that the charges would be reduced,” said Todd Getz on Friday. “So the felony charge is gone and the charges have been lowered to obstruction.”
Even that obstruction charge may be cleared from his record, Todd Getz said.
“We’re relieved that the felony charge has been dropped, but we’re not completely satisfied because we didn’t think he should have been charged with anything,” said Todd Getz. “Tim’s name has been cleared, so we’re somewhat relieved because it’s a better situation than it had been.
“So we’re happy about that, but like I said, we’re not completely satisfied,” Getz said.
The case had generated plenty of anger in the rural eastern Lebanon County community, where friends and neighbors said they felt Getz was being punished for trying to save the lives of his cattle.
Since last week, after news broke of the waived preliminary hearing and the possibility of reduced charges, the family has received support from several people, telling the Getz family they were glad the charges may be reduced, Todd Getz said.
Getz added that he has read many similar messages to the family on Facebook.
Attorney Breit, when contacted Friday, said he had no comment.