HOLLIDAYBURG - Eric R. Kriner, 32, one of two off-duty Altoona police officers arrested for an alleged brawl at Pellegrine's Lounge in 2010, has been listed for a guilty plea on Dec. 20 before Blair County Judge Timothy M. Sullivan.
Sullivan held a telephone status conference with prosecution and defense attorneys late Wednesday morning, and after a half hour discussion, issued an order stating that Kriner will enter a guilty plea while co-defendant Duane J. Eichenlaub, 30, the other off-duty officer, will seek a trial by jury in January.
Kriner's attorney, Roger R. Laguna Jr., would not discuss what charges Kriner would admit to, but said they would be "lesser" charges. A spokesman for the state attorney general declined comment.
Sullivan stated that Kriner will enter an "open plea," meaning no agreement has been reached concerning his sentence. A pre-sentence investigation will be ordered, a process that takes 60 to 90 days.
The attorneys for the ex-officers agreed to drop their contention that Kriner and Eichenlaub were the victims of selective prosecution.
The defense has contended that former Altoona detective Craig Zahradnik investigated the incident and sent a communication to state police inferring higher-ranking officers in his department were involved in a cover-up but never charged, a contention Altoona police denied.
Kriner and Eichenlaub were charged with conspiracy to hinder prosecution, tampering with public records, obstruction of the administration of justice and aggravated assault.
The Zahradnik communications remain under a court-ordered seal.
Because of the decision by Kriner to plead guilty and Eichenlaub's to go to trial, the defense agreed to drop the selective or vindictive prosecution charge and Sullivan has barred it from mention during Eichenlaub's trial.
Testimony at the October 2011 preliminary hearing showed the Kriner did not commit aggravated assault, Laguna said.
The two officers were part of a group that went to Pellegrine's after a wedding reception.
During the evening, Eichenlaub allegedly was told that Herman "Bo" Lardieri, 40, of Altoona had lifted his wife's dress.
Eichenlaub and Kriner are charged with following Lardieri into the restroom where Lardieri was beaten. A man who came to Lardieri's aid, Earl P. Eshelman, 60, of East Freedom suffered severe facial injuries in the fracas.
What followed next was allegedly an effort by the officers to get their colleagues, called to investigate the brawl, to cover up their involvement.
State police and a statewide grand jury investigated, and charges were brought against Kriner, Eichenlaub and Lardieri.
Lardieri was found guilty in July of lying to the grand jury about having a confrontation with Eichenlaub's wife, but the jury was unable to decide if Lardieri improperly touched the officer's wife.
Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.