HARRISBURG – Agents from the Attorney General’s Bureau of Narcotics Investigation and state police have filed criminal charges against a Tioga County attorney accused of accepting marijuana from clients he was representing and also smoking marijuana with clients and friends at his home and law office.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett identified the defendant as Stephen John Banik, 51, Wellsboro.
According to the criminal charges, Banik allegedly provided marijuana to friends, neighbors and individuals who performed work on his home or property. The marijuana was smoked in the basement of Banik’s home, his law office, at a nearby hunting camp or while driving around Tioga County.
Corbett said that the charges allege that Banik requested that a client “set him up” with marijuana on numerous occasions, with the understanding that the drugs were payment for legal services that Banik was providing. The exchange of marijuana for legal services allegedly began in the late 1990’s and continued until the fall of 2005.
“For an attorney to allegedly use drugs, or to request drugs from clients, is not only criminal, it is reprehensible,” Corbett said. “Illegal drugs remain the number one threat to public safety in Pennsylvania, and anyone who chooses to get involved in drug use should be prepared to face the consequences.”
Corbett said that Banik is charged with one count of criminal use of a communications facility, a third degree felony punishable by up to seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
Banik is also charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a $2,500 fine as well as distribution of a small amount of marijuana not for sale, a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in prison and a $500 fine.
The charges were filed Thursday before Wellsboro Magisterial District Judge Philip L. Sweet.