A month after winning the Lower Merion constable primary, an ousted deputy constable has accused the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office of pressuring him into an agreement that banned him from seeking the office.
On March 18, after seeing the name of Steven D. Sokoloff on the ballot, District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman filed a contempt petition against the 58-year-old Ardmore resident, alleging that he violated an agreement that he would not run for election as constable in Montgomery County.
Yesterday, Sokoloff's attorney, Jonathan F. Altman, filed a 78-page response, citing the "retaliatory and oppressive actions" of former District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. and the "unconstitutional" language of the agreement.
"Voters have the right to choose their candidates and Lower Merion Township Montgomery County citizens exercised that right by affirmatively signing Mr. Sokoloff's candidacy application and voting for him" on May 19, Altman wrote.
Democrats Sokoloff and his wife, Julie Sokoloff, an incumbent, will face off against two Republicans in the fall for two constable positions.
Sokoloff attracted the attention of authorities on Sept. 12, 2007, when he handcuffed Dennis Crilly, the sales manager of a Norristown car dealership, in front of customers for failure to pay a $150 parking ticket that had been issued to a customer.
Both sides agree that Crilly instructed another worker to call Castor, who was district attorney at the time, which generated a call to Sokoloff from a county detective, ordering him to release Crilly, which Sokoloff eventually did.
The response said Crilly received preferential treatment from Castor because Crilly's brother-in-law had contributed to Castor's campaigns. It also said Castor did not want "the special and unethical treatment of Mr. Crilly" to go public, so he threatened Sokoloff with other charges if he refused to resign.
Castor called the allegations absurd and said he would encourage anyone to call the district attorney under those circumstances.
"What's a citizen to do when they are being unfairly placed in handcuffs in a public place?" Castor asked. "I think it's irresponsible for any lawyer to file a set of allegations like that."
Ferman said she believed that Sokoloff made a deal he disliked and was now trying to renege. She said she could not speak to issues related to her predecessor.
"I'm the one who makes the decisions now," she said, calling Sokoloff's accusations "just plain wrong."