Friday, August 29, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Sexual predator investigated for possible witness tampering

Tattoo artist Walter Meyerle may have tried to illegally "influence the proceedings against him," District Attorney David Heckler said.

Sexual predator investigated for possible witness tampering

Walter Meyerle is escorted into court, where he was convicted of crimes against 15 children. (BILL REED / Staff)
Walter Meyerle is escorted into court, where he was convicted of crimes against 15 children. (BILL REED / Staff)

Walter Meyerle, the tattoo artist convicted of sexually assaulting 15 children over more than a decade, is under investigation for possible witness tampering, Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler said Friday.

“My office is looking into the question of whether he or his agents may have sought to do illegal things to influence the proceedings against him,” Heckler said. “It is an ongoing investigation; county detectives are involved.”

Heckler declined to say when the investigation started and whether a county grand jury is investigating Meyerle. The grand jury and its proceedings “are secret, and it’s not proper to say anything about what it’s doing,” he said.         

Meyerle is being held in the county prison, awaiting sentencing on Jan. 24 on 170 counts of molesting  boys and girls ages 4 to 17 from 1997 to 2010. He faces life in prison, Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Schorn has said.

He also is awaiting sentencing for plotting to escape from prison before his August trial in county court.

None of Meyerle’s victims took the witness stand during the weeklong non-jury trial, but their accounts were read into the court record. Meyerle’s lawyers stipulated that the accounts accurately represented the  testimony, but not necessarily the accuracy of the facts.

Several of the victims attended the trial, but they declined to be interviewed . The Inquirer has withheld their names because of the nature of the crimes.

Meyerle preyed on the children while he lived in Bensalem,  Bristol and Falls Townships and Bristol Borough, according to the testimony. Many of them had parents with drug and alcohol dependency problems, and he controlled the children with a combination of attention and threats.      

Meyerle declined to present a defense at trial, pinning his chances on an appeal.

“The focus the whole time has been on pre-trial motions,” lead defense lawyer Michael Goodwin said during the trial. “There was overwhelming evidence, so the focus is on the legal issues of the case.”

Meyerle lost pre-trial motions that challenged search warrants, arrest warrants, and warrants to download data from his computers and cell phone, Goodwin said.

He also lost challenges to Judge Diane E. Gibbons decision to consolidate the cases and to schedule the trial without giving his lawyers sufficient time to prepare, Goodwin said.

Goodwin and co-counsel Craig Penglase, both appointed by the court, no longer represent Meyerle, Penglase said Friday. Doylestown lawyer Stuart Wilder is handling his appeal to Superior Court, according to county records.

Wilder could not be reached for comment.    

About this blog
Chris Palmer covers Bucks County for the Philadelphia Inquirer. His previous work has appeared in the New York Times and on several Times blogs, including City Room, the Local East Village and SchoolBook (which has since been taken over by WNYC). Contact him at cpalmer@phillynews.com, 610 313 8212 or on Twitter, @cs_palmer.

Ben Finley covers Bucks County for The Philadelphia Inquirer. He previously worked for The Associated Press, FactCheck.org and the Bucks County Courier Times, where he won more than a dozen journalism awards from organizations including the Education Writers Association, the Society for Features Journalism and the Pennsylvania Bar Association. He grew up in Columbus, Ohio and graduated with honors from The Ohio State University with a degree in journalism. Contact him at bfinley@phillynews.com, 610-313-8118 or on Twitter, @Ben_Finley.

BucksInq  
Also on Philly.com
Stay Connected