Felony charges against a local farmer who had been accused of striking a State Trooper have been dropped, while other charges against the man have been reduced to one charge of obstruction, according to the man’s attorney.
Tim Getz, 35, of Jackson Township had been charged with aggravated assault, assault on a police officer, and harassment in connection with an incident that occurred on Sept. 4, 2019.
Assaulting a police officer is a felony.
On Wednesday, Feb. 19, a hearing was held before Lebanon County Judge John Tylwalk who ordered the charges be reduced to obstruction of governmental authority, according to Steven Breit, WGAL-TV analyst and attorney for the Getz family.
As a result of the reduced charge, Getz has been given 90 days of unsupervised probation.
“This resolution is the fairest I’ve seen over the years,” Breit said. “In my opinion, the charges were not appropriate and the end result is that a felony has been reduced to a misdemeanor.”
An obstruction charge could be due to disobeying a police officer’s command or interfering with an officer as he performs his duty, and in this case, Breit said, it was because of a failure to act when Timothy Getz was ordered from the barn by the trooper.
Lebanon County District Attorney Pier Hess Graf said, all things considered, the resolution was a fair one, but the public should remember that Trooper DeJesus was trying to save Tim Getz’s life by getting him out of a burning barn.
The tragedy of the night was taken into consideration.
“The bottom line is, Getz was in a horrible situation,” said Graf. “I do think it was a horrible time; highly emotional, and horrific circumstances for the Getz family, but Trooper DeJesus’ job is to protect all of us and he was trying to get Getz to safety; he was concerned that the roof was going to collapse.”
Graf stressed that there should have been no confusion as to the fact that this was an officer of the law trying to get the farmer out of the burning barn.
Trooper DeJesus was in uniform and he was clearly identified, Graf said.
Despite all the speculation found on public media, such as Facebook, about what happened the night of the fire, Graf said a video presented by Trooper DeJesus showed the trooper confronting Getz and, along with information from a microphone worn by state troopers, made it clear that DeJesus had reason to press charges.
“The video speaks for itself, showing what happened inside the barn,” Graf said.
The case was investigated thoroughly, Graf said, and the resolution came about based on communication with Getz’s defense council, local authorities, the trooper, and the public, as a representative of the community came forward as an advocate for the Getz family.
“Since there was a plea bargain, it was just a formality, but the judge could have approved or rejected the plea bargain,” said Todd Getz, 39, Tim’s brother.
Breit agreed that was the case.
“The judge was the final arbiter, so even if the DA proposes it, the judge could reject it, but he accepted it without any trepidation,” Breit said.
All supervisory and administrative fees were waived, Breit said, explaining that Getz would not have to pay those fees.
Because of a high amount of publicity, Breit said “more eyes were placed on this case.”
“Concessions were made on both sides,” Breit said. “I’m satisfied that this is a very fair resolution.”
The obstruction charge, a misdemeanor, was placed on Getz since he had direct orders to leave the barn, Breit explained.
“I saw a video of the fire and it was a total inferno,” Breit said. “I feel for the family in the loss of the barn and their cattle.”
Former Lebanon County District Attorney Dave Arnold negotiated the case and plea-bargain before leaving office to accept his State Senate seat, Breit said.
The trooper, Jorge DeJesus, was not at the hearing, Getz said, and only needed to be there in case of a trial.
On Sept. 4, a barn on the Marlin Getz farm along Elco Drive caught fire and as Getz and his sons, Timothy and Todd, raced to get their dairy cattle out of the barn, with the help of neighbors and firefighters, a state trooper arrived on the scene.
Trooper Jorge DeJesus entered the burning, smoke-filled barn and tried to get Tim Getz out of the barn.
DeJesus alleged that Getz struck him, while Getz sustained a head injury.
The exact nature of the altercation was never clear, but DeJesus brought charges against Getz, who was taken to county prison.
The next morning, the family’s veterinarian posted bail for Getz.
Aftermath of the incident was that 24 head of cattle were lost in the fire; 14 cows, eight heifers, and two calves.
It was a very tough time for the family, said Todd Getz, Tim’s younger brother. Besides losing part of their herd in a horrendous fire, his sibling was taken to jail.
The local community was in an uproar over what many considered unfair treatment to Getz and a petition was circulated, explaining the incident from the family’s perspective and asking that all charges be dropped.
Due to Facebook, the petition reached quite far, Getz said, and now has more than 40,000 signatures, all wanting justice for Tim Getz.
“We’ve had some people from the Midwest who have signed the petition,” Getz said. “I don’t know if it helped, but I’d like to think that it did. We’re still seeing that more people are signing it.”
The night of the fire, the Getz family’s remaining cattle were trucked to the farm of neighbor John Zimmerman, about five miles away. The livestock have stayed there since then, with the Getz family going twice a day to Zimmerman’s farm to feed and milk 55 dairy cows.
This week, Todd and Tim Getz are working on the former barn to get it ready for their cattle’s return, which could occur as early as next week.
“The way they explained the charge is that Tim obstructed the officer from what he was trying to do,” Todd Getz said. “The officer’s intentions may have been good, but he could have helped us get the cows out, instead of doing what he did.”
No cause for the fire has been identified, according to the State Police Fire Marshal John Burns.
The family is still trying to cope with the trauma they all suffered that night, Getz said.
“Tim is still upset, but he’s also somewhat relieved that’s it’s over,” Getz said. “I think it’s more or less coming to a close.”
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