The Sardella case
We got word of the decision by the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office to withdraw the most serious charges against 19-year-old Mia Sardella late Friday afternoon. We quickly put together a few paragraphs and posted them on our Web site indicating that the charges of first-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter filed against the Drexel Hill teen and college student were being withdrawn.
It popped up a little while later later on the early TV news.
Then my phone started ringing.
I kind of expected the tone of the calls.
I wasn’t disappointed.
From the beginning, after the baby Sardella gave birth to was found in a duffel bag in the trunk of her mother’s car, it has been a lightning rod for those who believe that there are two versions of justice doled out in this country, and in this county.
They pointed out the length of time it took for charges to be filed in the case, and the fact that the young woman and her family hired a top-flight lawyer, Art Donato, before making contact with police.
I pretty much expected more of the same Friday afternoon when the charges were dropped. That’s what I got.
The first woman who called was apoplectic at the decision to withdraw the charges. Somehow she got the notion from the TV coverage that all the charges were simply being dropped against Sardella.
That’s not really the case. She will still face lesser charges, but the first-degree murder charge, and with it the possibility of the death penalty, is not longer in play.
Sardella likely now will be charged with third-degree murder, aggravated assault and abuse of a corpse.
The D.A.’s office said they made the decision to withdraw the more serious charges after a review of the forensic evidence in the case and consultation with experts, the bottom line being they don’t think they had the goods to prove a first-degree charge.
Obviously their opinion of the case has changed from the time they filed charges against the Drexel University coed. At that time, they made it clear that based on the findings of Medical Examiner Dr. Fred Hellmann, they believe the baby was born alive and it was asphyxiated.
At her preliminary hearing, a relative indicated the girl found no sign of life in the baby after she gave birth in a bathroom of her mother’s house.
No one is supposed to comment on the case because of a gag order issued by Delaware County Judge Patricia Jenkins in the controversial case.
That gag order was ordered in part because Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood made it pretty clear he believed Sardella and her family were being treated differently because of the family’s status.
Chitwood was biting his tongue when contacted Friday to comment on the story, again pointing to the gag order. It doesn’t take an advanced degree, however, to get the notion that he’s not thrilled with the move.
Now the Sardella will continue through the court system. She will continue to be on home monitoring, staying with her grandfather, prominent investment banker Albert Piscopo. The D.A.’s office also will withdraw an earlier request to have Sardella’s bail revoked.
And the public will continue to debate whether in fact there are two systems of justice in this country, and point to the Sardella case as proof of it.