2012-12-26 / Local & State

1 Of 2 Former Altoona Cops To Plead In Bar Fight

ALTOONA, Pa. (AP) – The defense attorney for one of two former central Pennsylvania police officers charged in a barroom brawl and with later trying to cover it up said his client will plead guilty to “ lesser” charges in the incident.

Former Altoona officer Eric Kriner, 32, will plead on Dec. 20 before Blair County Judge Timothy Sullivan, the Altoona Mirror reported Friday.

Kriner’s attorney, Roger Laguna Jr. wouldn't say what charges Kriner would plead to, but said they’ll be “lesser” charges.

Kriner and another former Altoona officer, Duane Eichenlaub, 30, have been charged with aggravated assault, conspiracy to hinder prosecution, tampering with public records, and obstruction of justice.

The state attorney general's office contends Kriner and Eichenlaub beat up Herman “Bo” Lardieri, 40, of Altoona, after he allegedly fondled Eichenlaub’s wife under her dress while the officers and others were at the bar following a wedding reception in May 2010. A 60- year-old man who tried to break up the fight suffered facial fractures, a concussion and a damaged retina.

The officers have claimed they were made scapegoats for the alleged cover up, which their attorneys have suggested involved higher ranking officers, too. After Thursday’s telephone conference with the judge – who in September refused to dismiss the charges – the officers' attorneys agreed to drop their claims that Kriner and Eichenlaub were being selectively prosecuted.

The grand jury found that Eichenlaub told the officer who responded to the fight to “make it go away” and that, for a time, the responding officer downplayed Eichenlaub and Kriner’s involvement.

Sullivan has scheduled Kriner for an open plea, meaning there's no agreedupon sentence or plea bargain in the case, and issued an order that Eichenlaub will have a jury trial in January.

The case has been complicated by the fact that the alleged victim, Lardieri, was also charged with lying to the grand jury convened to sort out the events of that day.

Lardieri is serving 9 to 18 months in jail for his July conviction telling the grand jury he hadn't interacted or had contact with Eichenlaub's wife that night. The same jury couldn't reach a verdict on a related charge of indecent assault stemming from his alleged fondling of her.

The other alleged beating victim, Earl Eshelman, who is now 62, has sued both officers and the owner of the lounge, saying the bartender served the officers drinks after they were visibly intoxicated and that bouncers didn't intervene to stop the beatings.

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