Shrewsbury District Judge Joy pleads no contest in 2 criminal cases

Liz Evans Scolforo

Shrewsbury-area District Judge Jeff Joy has avoided prison but can never seek judicial or law-enforcement office again as part of a plea agreement that resolved his two criminal cases.

York County District Judge Jeff Joy

Joy, 51, appeared in York County Court on Wednesday afternoon and pleaded no contest to two counts of official oppression, one count for each case. The offense is a second-degree misdemeanor.

The plea means Joy didn't have to admit guilt, but otherwise a no-contest plea has the same effect as a guilty plea.

Deputy Attorney General Rebecca Franz said it was an open plea, so there was no agreed-upon sentence. However, she said, the agreement required Joy to immediately resign his position and to never seek judicial or law-enforcement office again.

Presiding out-of-county Senior Common Pleas Judge Lawrence F. Clark Jr. sentenced Joy to two years of probation, 200 hours of community service and $2,000 in fines. He ordered Joy to pay court costs and to submit, within 24 hours, "an unequivocal, non-revocable" resignation letter to state officials, including Gov. Tom Wolf.

The other counts against Joy were dismissed, including indecent assault, bribery in official and political matters and harassment.

The background: Joy, of Fourth Street in New Freedom, was charged Aug. 7 for allegedly groping a woman whose boyfriend was incarcerated after appearing before Joy in district court.

The Shrewsbury-area magisterial district judge office is being presided over by Senior District Judge Nancy Edie, after elected Shrewsbury-area District Judge Jeff Joy was barred from the bench after being charged criminally.

State police said Joy went to the woman's Glen Rock home, where he touched and licked her breast and grabbed her buttocks.

On Aug. 12, state police filed additional charges against Joy. They said he offered to vacate a different woman's court fines if she modeled lingerie for him.

Joy and defense attorney Chris Ferro declined comment Wednesday as they left the courtroom. Joy also declined to make a statement during his court hearing.

Ferro has previously said that while Joy may have moral failings, the allegations didn't rise to the level of criminal charges.

The Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline suspended Joy without pay in mid-August, acting on a petition filed by the state's Judicial Conduct Board that sought Joy's suspension.

'Deceived me': The woman who told police Joy groped her in her Glen Rock apartment spoke at Wednesday's hearing. Last year, she told The York Dispatch she had spoken with Joy about her concerns that one of her child neighbors was being abused.

The woman, whose name is being withheld by The York Dispatch, said Joy agreed to look into her concerns.

"He knew that I was in a vulnerable situation ... that I wasn't from Pennsylvania and I was alone," she said in court. "He came to my apartment and abused his power ... and pretty much deceived me into thinking he was helping a (child) who was my neighbor. ... He abused my trust and he was supposed to be a person who was an honorable judge."

She said she and her boyfriend moved back to Maryland as soon as he was released from prison, and she told Judge Clark the incident had a domino effect on her life, including being fired from her job.

Lived 'in fear': "Basically after he attacked me, I had to live in fear ... because I came forward," she said. "I was in such a depression."

She said she thinks people such as Joy don't stop to think about how their actions affect others.

"It creates a nightmare," she said. "I'm getting my life back together. I'm resilient, but it's been difficult."

Attorney Suzanne Smith, who represented the woman to help her through the legal process, said she believes the young woman feels vindicated.

"Her goal was (to ensure) he's never be able to do that again," Smith said.

'No winners': Ferro told Judge Clark that he doesn't know a district judge who was "kinder, friendlier, nicer, more learned ... more caring" than Joy.

"There are no winners here today," Clark said as he imposed sentence.

Ferro emailed a statement about Joy after the hearing, stressing that Joy in no way admits to the allegations against him, but that "a path back to the bench" was unlikely and that Joy's position as a district judge "would remain compromised."

The plea avoided a "costly, lengthy and emotional fight with the Attorney General's Office" that seemed counterproductive and unnecessary, Ferro wrote.

"I know that no one is perfect, but I believe that this plea, and my client’s accompanying resignation, is a net loss for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania," Ferro wrote. "There is no doubt in my mind that Jeff will turn the page on this episode and find a new way to continue to serve his community just as he has done for the past several decades."

Barred from bench: Four months before his suspension, Joy was barred from presiding over criminal cases by then-York County President Common Pleas Judge Stephen P. Linebaugh. That's about the same time state police began investigating Joy.

When Joy was criminally charged, Linebaugh removed Joy from all court duties until further notice. That order also recused all York County judges from presiding over Joy's cases, which is why an out-of-county senior judge was assigned.

Joy's district covers the boroughs of Jacobus, Loganville, Glen Rock, Shrewsbury, New Freedom and Railroad, and Springfield and Shrewsbury townships. Senior District Judge Nancy Edie has been handling cases in Joy's office and continues to do so.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at