March 09–WILKES-BARRE — The state Office of Attorney General won’t retry an ex-cop and career firefighter whom a jury earlier this year acquitted on two of three counts related to the alleged cover-up of a friend’s early morning car crash.
A Luzerne County jury determined John Fronzoni was not guilty of witness intimidation and hindering prosecution, but deadlocked on a third count of obstructing the administration of law following a three-day corruption trial in January. A mistrial was declared on the charge following the verdict.
State prosecutors, in a motion filed Thursday in Luzerne County Court, announced they won’t pursue the remaining charge against the former Larksville firefighter and part-time police officer for Edwardsville and Courtdale boroughs.
Fronzoni’s attorney, John Pike, said his client was “very emotionally relieved” to learn he was completely cleared of his criminal charges.
Fronzoni, however, is still proceeding forward with a union lawyer regarding his termination from the Larksville Fire Department after the allegations surfaced, Pike said. He remains on administrative leave from Edwardsville and Courtdale boroughs.
State prosecutors had alleged the 37-year-old Larksville native urged responders at a 2014 early morning wreck involving his friend, William Ritsick, to falsify reports in an effort to prevent Ritsick from being investigated for driving under the influence.
Ritsick, 46, crashed head-on into a telephone pole at about 2 a.m. on Dec. 21, 2014, police said. He testified he wasn’t intoxicated, but acknowledged he had drank two beers and had taken Xanax prior to getting behind the wheel.
Pike argued Fronzoni’s efforts as a union steward in Larksville drew the ire of borough council members and was the motivation behind his criminal charges. Fronzoni was unaware who was behind the wheel when he came upon the wreck after leaving a charity event at a nearby bar he owned, and assisted like he would any other emergency, Pike argued.
But Senior Deputy Attorney General Bernard Anderson claimed Ritsick was “a prime suspect” for a DUI charge. He said Fronzoni intimidated rookie Courtdale police officer Greg Johnson, kept Ritsick hidden in the back of his personal vehicle, personally tracked down a tow truck driver to remove Ritsick’s disabled car, and ultimately drove Ritsick from the scene.
Fronzoni testified he had no reason to believe the crash was alcohol-related and only knew Ritsick casually. He denied wrongdoing beyond admitting he told a medic to write that she had “no patient contact” with Ritsick, a designation he said only applied to physical contact.
A firefighter who Fronzoni told not to complete a form couldn’t have finished it with the information available at the time, Fronzoni argued on the stand, and another firefighter who said he overheard Fronzoni saying, “This never happened,” caught the remark out of context.
“What I said was, ‘I wish this never happened,'” Fronzoni said, adding he felt sorry for Ritsick because the crash happened around the holidays and Ritsick was dealing with a sick family member.
Initially charged in the case, former Larksville police officer Michael Thomas saw his charges dropped by District Judge James Tupper in 2015. Tupper had said he found no evidence of wrongdoing by Thomas, who later resigned from the department.
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