On Thursday, Magisterial District Judge John Bailey of West Whiteland dismissed all 54 felony counts against Frank Recknagel, a security manager for Energy Transfer Partners. The Chester County District Attorney’s office accused Recknagel of hiring constables as security guards, but hiding payments to them in a buy a badge scheme. The judge however threw out all of the charges late last Thursday.
It is legal for constables in Pennsylvania to work as peace officers in the commonwealth and are hired to do so on a regular basis. However, former District Attorney Tom Hogan, facing a difficult election in Chester County chose the low road, in an effort to go after the project for political reasons. He claimed Energy Transfer used the constables’ badges and authority to “intimidate citizens.” When first announcing the case, his office was quoted saying, “Energy Transfer wanted the power of the badge to enforce their corporate will and engaged in illegal activity to make it happen.”
After winning the Republican nomination for another term as DA, Hogan soon after determined he stood no chance to win in the general election and didn’t even stand for a second term on the general election ballot. His replacement was defeated last November.
Magisterial District Judge John Bailey determined that Recknagel actually did his very best to avoid breaking the law. Evidence presented demonstrated that he had no criminal intent and had been in communication with local township police and elected officials about the arrangement throughout.
Justine Danilewitz, Recknagel’s attorney, believes this case was influenced by political considerations rather than “sound, fair prosecutorial decisions.” Even though the attorney had provided the D.A.’s office with all of the evidence before former D.A. Tom Hogan filed charges, Hogan still persecuted Recknagel. Energy Transfer’s Lisa Coleman commented, “The Chester County District Attorney’s Office overreached on this case, and despite our cooperation and transparency with the DA’s office, the DA still proceeded with this matter.”
Mariner East continues to receive unfair scrutiny by anti-pipeline activists and some politicians. Tom Hogan tried to use this to his advantage, but quickly realized his overreach with the law was never going to save his political career. The pipeline developer, Energy Transfer has continued to face frivolous lawsuits from deep-pocketed activists funded by out of state special interests, but continues to come out on top. Knowing this, Danilewitz believes the politics around the state’s energy infrastructure projects “animated” the prosecution.