LUZERNE COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA – The Luzerne County Commissioners voted Tuesday to fire Deputy Sheriff Jennifer M. Roberts following her arrest earlier this month in a domestic dispute with a romantic rival.
The commissioners unanimously approved the firing, a last-minute addition to their meeting agenda, after briefly adjourning into executive session to discuss the matter with Sheriff John Gilligan and county Solicitor Vito DeLuca.
Gilligan, who suspended Roberts indefinitely following her Aug. 5 arrest and ordered an internal investigation, declined to comment on the firing Tuesday citing the cloak of privacy often attached to county personnel matters.
Commissioner Stephen A. Urban, speaking after the meeting with decidedly less deference to protocol, said Roberts’ firing came after a department personnel hearing Monday where she was found to have engaged in conduct unbecoming of a sheriff’s deputy.
Roberts’ defense attorney, Allyson L. Kacmarski, said the firing Tuesday was a “separate issue” from the criminal case and “has no reflection” on how they would proceed.
According to police, Roberts attacked Sheila Sult, the girlfriend of her former lover, Mary Jean Farrell, in the early morning of July 22 at Sult’s Regent Street, Wilkes-Barre home.
Roberts violently punched Sult in the face and on the head, landing a blow under an eye that caused severe swelling, blurry vision and a headache, police said. Sult, 44, also sustained lumps on her head and scratches on her neck, police said. Farrell, a disabled sheriff’s deputy, intervened to stop the attack, police said.
Sult told police Roberts threatened her at the Wyoming Valley Mall in Wilkes-Barre Township the day before the attack and referred to Farrell as “my wife.” During the same mall encounter, Roberts told Farrell, “If you don’t come see me later, I will find Sheila and punch that Colgate smile right off her face,” according to police.
Roberts, 33, of Prospect Street, Wilkes-Barre Township, is charged with burglary, simple assault and harassment. Her arrest followed a suspension in February after she and Farrell hit each other with protection-from-abuse petitions.
Gilligan ended the suspension in March after Roberts and Farrell agreed to withdraw the protection-from-abuse petitions. Farrell and Roberts were living together in Fairview Township with Farrell’s children, 13 and 11. They broke up in February when Roberts became involved with another woman, according to court papers. Each woman said the other pointed a gun at her and threatened to kill her.
Farrell was not suspended in February because she was not working and was recovering from an on-duty injury. Gilligan said Farrell is still not working. Roberts started working for the county in 2002 and earned $29,850 per year, according to county payroll records. Farrell, who started working for the county in 1988, earns $37,150 per year. She has been receiving disability pay since October, according to payroll records.