A 47-year-old Plains Township man has been charged with three misdemeanor counts of making terroristic threats against Luzerne County Children and Youth and two of the agency’s employees.
The accused, Philip Finn, was arraigned before magisterial District Judge Joseph Spagnuolo in Plains Township at 10:45 p.m. Thursday and lodged in the county prison in lieu of $300,000 bail.
According to the arrest affidavit, which was prepared by county detectives, the charges are based on the following allegations:
Two Children and Youth caseworkers visited Finn’s Abbott Street residence at 3:20 p.m. March 3 to serve him with a summons for a court hearing.
The caseworkers immediately identified themselves and explained why they were there. Finn initially refused to accept the paperwork and said he would not be in court on the date indicated on the summons. He accused the Children and Youth agency of wanting to take his 8-year-old daughter away from him.
Finn asked the caseworkers if Joanne Van Saun was still agency director and said he previously had problems with her before saying: “I’m going to take care of her, and I mean take care of her. I’m going to settle this.”
He then proceeded to “berate” Heather Batchler, the caseworker assigned to his case and author of the dependency petition. He said he has been researching her and her family on Facebook, knows where they live and will find out where they live if he has the incorrect address.
Finn brought his daughter to the door and told her the caseworkers were going to take her away and put her in foster care.
When one of the Children and Youth workers tried to explain his presence at the hearing was important, he looked at his daughter and said, “Maybe I will get to use that new assault rifle I have.”
He told the workers he doesn’t care if they tell the agency everything he said and that he would “protect his daughter no matter what.” He described the agency as “a bunch of child predators” and indicated he was “just protecting his daughter.”
The workers left the residence and reported the incident to their supervisor before filing a report about the incident with township police.
Over the next two days, multiple messages were sent from a Facebook account publicly identified as Finn’s to Laing Batchler, who is caseworker Batchler’s ex-husband. Finn expressed an “urgent demand” to speak with caseworker Batchler and a desire to go to her residence.
The detectives pointed to two statements he sent to Laing Batchler, listed here exactly as the text appears in the affidavit:
“My 8 year old daughter is lying in my arms upset to the point she’s thrown up…I suggest you get in touch with me.. Your piece of human garbage wife Heather has fabricated a story about me including lies that my 8 year old daughter fears me..Listen no one will EVER harm my daughter including your c—- wife..I already have all information about you and your children..If she continues to try to harm my 8 year old daughter which she already has..You can use your imagination..She was told the truth from my daughter and your c—- wife did what she wanted anyway. I’d suggest you or her call me because I can assure you..My only purpose in life it to protect my beautiful daughter..and your c—-wife isn’t going to get a chance to hurt her.”
The second cited message:
“Laing she’s ruined my daughter’s entire weekend and in her mind this is just the begging..She’s no good..and I made a promise to my daughter I will stop her and Joanne Van Saun..and I intent to do exactly that..that can be interpreted many ways but confident I’ll be directed to the right decision..if what you say is true I have no issues with you..best wishes buddy!”
When Finn was questioned at the Wilkes-Barre police headquarters March 6, he admitted that he made a statement in front of his daughter “to the effect that he was happy that he recently purchased an assault rifle and that he might get to use it” to the caseworkers who visited his home to serve the notice March 6.
He also admitted to contacting Laing Batchler through Facebook and confirmed he recently purchased an SKS assault rifle that he kept at his residence.
During a search of his vehicle that day, investigators found a handwritten note containing addresses and other private information of several Children and Youth workers, including Van Saun and Batchler.
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Reach Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.