Facebook posts on candidate’s arrest don’t tell the whole story

BERNE — Last week, photos were posted on Facebook of portions of a document that shows charges brought against the Berne Democratic candidate for town clerk, Jean Guarino, in 1995, when she was 19 and known as Jean Gilliland, leaving the public to draw their own conclusions from limited information. 

As The Enterprise determined in May, when it was first alerted to Guarino’s legal history, the full story is more complicated than the document portions found online indicate, and it does not appear that Guarino was responsible for the crimes committed, which is reflected in her treatment by the court. 

As the full document reveals, Guarino was charged in the Court of Common Pleas in Monroe County, Pennsylvania, with five counts of theft by deception — three relating to false impression, one relating to the prevention of acquisition of information, and one relating to failure to correct a false impression. She was also charged with the receipt of stolen property. 

Guarino explained to the Enterprise in May, as she did again this week in a letter to the Enterprise editor, that she was arrested alongside her ex-husband, David Gilliland, who she said had drug problem supported by theft, and that he had stolen an answering machine that he brought into their shared home, installing it before she came home from work one day. Believing it was a legally acquired answering machine, Guarino recorded a greeting on it, she said, more firmly attaching her to the crime.

David Gilliland’s public court records support Guarino’s claim.

In 1995, one day before Guarino’s arrest, Gilliland was arrested and charged with burglary, theft by unlawful taking of movable property, receiving stolen property, and two counts of criminal trespassing. 

More significant than the difference in charges between the two is the progression of their cases through the Pennsylvania legal system.

By March of 1996, there was a “motion and order for ARD” for Guarino, which means she was granted admission to the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition Program, which a Pennsylvania county website defines as being for first-time offenders with the purpose of acknowledging “those offenders who are amenable to treatment and rehabilitation and effectively remove their cases from the criminal justice system, thereby freeing resources better used elsewhere.”

The site states that those in the program are typically placed on probation and are ordered to pay a fine and complete community service. Upon completion, an offender can have his or her record expunged. 

When The Enterprise spoke with Guarino in May, without advance notice, she stated as much, surprised that her charges were accessed by The Enterprise, saying she thought they were cleared. 

But while Guarino was placed in accelerated rehabilitation, her then husband, Gilliland, pleaded guilty to his crimes and was handed a criminal sentence. It’s not clear from the documents what his sentence was, but a few months after his sentencing order, he was granted parole, which he would soon violate.

Gilliland could not be reached for comment.

Gilliland appears to have been incarcerated in Florida in 2012 and is scheduled to be released in 2031, according to a public records-gathering site — publicpolicerecord.com — which is based in that state. 

According to the site, he’s in prison for robbery without a gun or deadly weapon, trafficking in stolen property, burglary of a dwelling, possession of a firearm, and uttering forged bills.

The Enterprise is attempting to independently verify these records.

In May and in her letter this week, Guarino framed the incident that led to her charges within what she described as an abusive relationship.

“When I was in the army, I fell in love and married one of my platoon mates,” Guarino wrote in her letter. “By the time we finished our initial term, I was newly pregnant with what I would soon find out to be twins. I was honorably discharged and we moved to his hometown in rural Pennsylvania. Away from the strict military regimen, my ex-husband quickly dove head-first back into his adolescent drug addiction.

“... In between fixes, when he couldn’t get drugs,” Guarino continues, “he would have manic and violent tantrums, and I was the lucky target of most of them. The abuse ranged from shouting and a few thrown fists, to one time where he threw me, while about 5 months pregnant, down a flight of stairs. I was OK, but that trauma resulted in the loss of one of my twins.”

Guarino is running for clerk against Republican candidate Kristen Francis. Incumbent clerk Anita Clayton, a Democrat, is retiring from that position at the end of this year.

Berne Democratic Committee Chairman Kevin Crosier said he was aware of Guarino’s charges and undisturbed by them, and stood behind a comment the committee made on Facebook stating that it would not respond to rumors stemming from the charges.

“I mean, it’s pretty irrelevant at this point, right?” Crosier asked rhetorically of Guarino’s arrest. 

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