Court rejects Starr’s offer to appeal | News, Sports, Jobs


Pennsylvania Superior Court has dismissed a complaint by former city police officer Matthew S. Starr that his attorney erred when he failed to appeal a jury’s decision on convicting of money laundering and five counts of theft.

In April 2019, Starr, 44, was sentenced by Huntingdon County Senior Judge Stewart L. Kurtz to serve five years of probation and be tested for possible gambling and alcohol addictions.

He had to follow up on all the recommendations resulting from these tests.

A three-judge Superior Court panel said in an opinion Tuesday that Starr admitted he had not asked his attorney, Robert S. Donaldson of Hollidaysburg, to appeal.

But nearly a year after his sentence was imposed, Starr — through Philadelphia attorney Todd M. Mosser — filed a post-conviction motion saying Donaldson should have consulted with him post-sentence to make appeal of jury verdicts.

Kurtz held a hearing on the matter and on March 11, 2021 ruled that Donaldson had a “objective and reasonable basis” for failing to appeal the convictions.

Donaldson explained to the judge that Starr received a favorable sentence that included probation and a $500 fine and that several other charges were dismissed.

If Starr was successful in his direct appeal and won a new trial, the dismissed charges could return and Starr would once again face a fine of $100,000 for money laundering and up to 20 years in prison – if he is found guilty a second time.

Despite a request from Assistant Attorney General Megan Victoria Madaffari, Kurtz refused to impose the $100,000 fine on Starr, noting that he did not believe Starr could pay it.

Superior Court Justices Alice B. Dubow, John T. Bender, and James G. Colins upheld the Kurtz decision rejecting reinstatement of Starr’s right to a direct appeal.

Starr maintained that if he had been consulted by his attorney about whether he wanted to appeal, he would have given the green light.

The former detective claimed that ahead of his sentencing hearing he indicated he would welcome an appeal.

But in his testimony to Kurtz, Donaldson recalled advising Starr that filing an appeal could mean “the other charges came back on board and specifically I told him that the guidelines for determining the sentencing provided for a period of incarceration and specifically I spoke about it (money laundering), which in fact by law calls for a large fine or double the amount of the transaction, or $100,000, and /or a period of incarceration.

“Once again, I felt that we received a justified but very favorable sentence from the judge. … I advised him not to appeal given the verdicts and the favorable sentence he received”, Donaldson testified.

After this present conversation, Starr admitted that he did not tell his attorney to appeal.

The Superior Court’s opinion concluded that, given Donaldson’s advice and Starr’s failure to ask him to appeal, “It was reasonable for counsel to assume that (Starr) did not wish to pursue a direct appeal.”

He summed up the case by stating: “The lawyer was not ineffective.”

Starr’s offenses occurred between 2015 and 2017 and included selling a firearms training system, which he owned but sold to the city through a third party.

He was also accused of raising funds for police equipment and donations for a friend’s sick family member which were deposited into his own bank account.

An investigation also determined that he was a regular at Rocky Gap Casino in Maryland.

Starr can ask the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania to review his case.

Mosser, Starr’s current attorney, could not be reached for comment.

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