The North Cornwall Township Board of Supervisors unanimously accepted the resignation of Police Chief John Leahy at a monthly meeting held Tuesday, March 2. Leahy did not attend, and no explanation was given for his resignation from the township’s top law enforcement position.

However, the township had announced in a Feb. 22 news release that Leahy was being placed on “administrative leave with pay” pending the outcome of its investigation “into the events surrounding [NCT] Officer [Joseph] Fischer’s actions on January 6, 2021 and afterwards.” Fischer has been charged by federal authorities with a number of crimes arising out of allegations that he participated in the violent invasion of the United States Capitol on Jan. 6.

Fischer remains suspended without pay, as required by Pennsylvania’s Confidence in Law Enforcement Act, pending resolution of the charges against him.

After the supervisors accepted Leahy’s resignation, township labor attorney Michael Miller read a press release stating in part that “[n]either the Township nor any officer or employee endorses, accepts or condones any alleged participation in a crime against the United States nor any act committed by any individual who may have illegally breached the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021.”

The supervisors then opened the floor for public comment on the arrest of Officer Fischer and Chief Leahy’s resignation. Less than 20 people were in attendance, and only three residents spoke.

Ellie Salahub asked why Fischer was “only suspended and not fired.” Anita Winer asked if Fischer was “suspended permanently.” Attorney Miller replied that the Constitution and the township’s collective bargaining agreement with the police force give Fischer “due process rights” that prevent an immediate firing.

Referring to Fischer, resident Fred Tomco urged the supervisors to “consider all the information and not rush to judgment,” maintaining that “a lot of it is blown out of proportion and is fake news.” He said there is “no positive proof” of what he termed “supposed violence” at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Officer Fischer remains free pending trial.

His release conditions require him to notify the court if he travels outside of the Middle District of Pennsylvania, which covers the areas surrounding Harrisburg, Williamsport, Scranton, and Wilkes-Barre, and he must receive court approval to travel outside the continental U.S.

He is also forbidden from possessing weapons and using social media, and has been ordered to stay away from the District of Columbia except for court appearances and to meet with his attorney. 

As of March 1, Fischer did not have an attorney listed on court records, and the D.C. Federal Public Defender said it had not been appointed to represent Fischer.

Fischer’s first court appearance after his Feb. 19 arrest was in Harrisburg federal court. All further court appearances, including trial, will be in D.C. federal court. No trial date has been set.

Fischer’s next court appearance, via video, is scheduled for March 15 in the District of Columbia, before a United States Magistrate Judge. It is expected that scheduling and procedural matters will be discussed.

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Chris Coyle writes primarily on government, the courts, and business. He retired as an attorney at the end of 2018, after concentrating for nearly four decades on civil and criminal litigation and trials. A career highlight was successfully defending a retired Pennsylvania state trooper who was accused,...