CLEARFIELD – A mistrial was declared by Clearfield County President Judge Fredric Ammerman on Monday in the two cases against a suspected area drug dealer, Daniel Robert Peteuil, 44.
Following an approximate half-hour delay, Ammerman said the court had run into some issues with the jury panel. First, he said alternate juror no. 1 indicated she knew Peteuil during jury selection this past fall.
He said though she “finally” expressed she could be fair and impartial, he still believed she’d be struck from the jury pool. However, he said she was selected and had since written the court asking to be excused.
In a letter dated Dec. 30, Ammerman said she wrote that she knew Peteuil and the more she thought about the trial, the more she became worried and uncomfortable. Ammerman said he excused her as well as juror 10 who contacted the court and indicated that he’d recently been exposed to the COVID-19 virus.
Then, on Friday, he said jurors were being contacted by court staff and reminded of the trial. He said juror 7 mentioned she’d seen an article on GANT News regarding Peteuil having disappeared.
Ammerman said the article gave an extensive, factual account of the case, and that if it was seen by juror 7, it was most likely seen by at least a few others.
He said it detailed all the drugs and amounts Peteuil was found in possession of, and how a confidential informant called him one of the “main drug dealers in the Clearfield County area.”
“It was published so close to trial, and everything is right there including a big picture of Mr. Peteuil,” Ammerman said. While GANT News has “every right” to publish the article, he did believe it was “ill-advised.”
He said normally, local media pick up stories when charges are filed, again following the preliminary hearing and it’s usually pretty “dead” until cases go to trial unless there’s a pre-trial motion.
When Ammerman brought juror 7 into the courtroom, she said she just “skimmed” the article. She only recalled that Peteuil was to be at an appointment in Pittsburgh, cut his ankle bracelet, took off and was now “MIA.”
She said she didn’t recall instructions given at jury selection to not view any media coverage of the case. When asked, she said she hadn’t drawn any conclusions from the article and could serve as a fair and impartial juror.
Both Senior Deputy Attorney General Dave Gorman and Peteuil’s court-appointed defense attorney Brian Jones agreed.
Jones said he was aware of the article, and that all the information was public record. He said Clearfield County has some cases that get much broader media coverage; “it’s just the nature of the beast.”
He said juror 7 didn’t recall any specific testimony, references to Peteuil’s criminal history, etc., and he felt she may still be impartial. Gorman agreed, noting details the juror recalled were more related to his disappearance than case testimony and evidence.
That, Gorman said, would have to be addressed at some point anyway because the trial was being held in Peteuil’s absence. He said the juror didn’t relate having drawn any sort of conclusion of guilt from the article.
Ammerman said he didn’t see how the juror could possibly put what she’d read aside, and it was likely the article tainted others on the jury panel. “Frankly, it’s a major concern for me … and I don’t see how we can proceed.”
Ammerman then excused juror No. 7, leaving the court with 11 jurors. Unable to proceed without the required 12-member jury panel, he declared a mistrial and scheduled jury selection for Feb. 11.
In the first case, Peteuil is charged with three counts of possession of firearm prohibited, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities and five counts of manufacture, delivery or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver, all felonies.
He’s also charged with five misdemeanor counts of intentional possession of a controlled substance, misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia and sell controlled substance without known trademark and two summaries.
In the second case, he’s charged with two counts of manufacture, delivery or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver, three counts of conspiracy, dealing in proceeds of unlawful activities and criminal use of communication facilities, all felonies.
The charges in the first case stem from an incident June 6, 2019 in DuBois when Peteuil was stopped by police for a window tint violation, according to previously-published GANT News reports.
It was determined he was on state parole and not allowed to be in DuBois. When a parole officer arrived on-scene, she searched the vehicle and located a large sum of cash in the center console as well as a loaded pistol.
Peteuil is not permitted to possess a firearm because he is a convicted felon. He was subsequently taken into custody.
Later investigators reportedly found over $45,000 in cash, two more pistols, ammunition and various drugs in the vehicle. This included 238.41 grams of cocaine, 349 grams of heroin, 58.32 grams of methamphetamine and over a pound of marijuana, police said.
The second case was filed following grand jury testimony in June in relation to drug activity, involving heroin, LSD, marijuana, meth, Fentanyl, cocaine, Suboxone and psychedelic mushrooms “under the leadership of Daniel Peteuil.”
In addition to items found during the June of 2019 traffic stop, investigators reportedly found a receipt for payment of $1,500 to a local attorney for services to an associate of Peteuil, Jonathan Morales. Morales was arrested following a traffic stop May 16, 2019.
Police seized 56.57 grams of meth, 665 stamp bags of heroin, marijuana and other drugs from Morales. They also uncovered over $9,000 in cash, according to court documents. Morales told police the drugs were put in his vehicle by Peteuil.
Confidential informants testified before the grand jury that they bought quantities of drugs from Peteuil. One of these informants stated that they believed “Peteuil was the main drug dealer of drugs in the Clearfield County area.”