York DA's Office: Judge Matt Menges not 'reckless,' but cited with 3 traffic offenses

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch
Matthew Menges is sworn in as Court of Common Pleas judge during a ceremony at the York County Administrative Center Friday, Jan. 3, 2020. Oaths of office were administered to county and court officials. Bill Kalina photo

York County Common Pleas Judge Matthew D. Menges is facing three summary traffic citations for allegedly refusing to obey a police officer's traffic directive.

Chief York County Detective Arthur Smith Jr. filed the citations Friday, Feb. 7. They are disobeying an authorized person directing traffic, careless driving and duties of drivers in emergency response areas.

If the judge is found or pleads guilty to all three offenses, he would owe $639.25 in fines and costs, according to the citations.

Menges, 41, of Warrington Township, did not return a phone message seeking comment on Friday.

York City Police on Jan. 23 cited Menges with failing to obey an officer's traffic directive but withdrew the citation late the same day at the direction of the York County District Attorney's Office.

The DA's office indicated that was so an "independent and thorough" review of the incident could be done by York County detectives.

York City Police had accused Menges of nearly running over Officer Alexander Nova as he drove in a direction Nova had forbidden him to.

Not reckless or 'wanton': The county detectives' investigation "analyzed Judge Menges' driving conduct and the nature of any potential harm to York City Police Officer Alexander Nova while directing traffic due to a medical emergency involving a minor child," according to a news release issued Friday afternoon by Kyle King, spokesman for the DA's office.

"Evidence reviewed included statements and body camera footage," the release reads. "This office concluded that, based upon all evidence, Judge Menges did not willfully or wantonly disregard the safety of Officer Nova or recklessly engage in driving conduct that may have placed Officer Nova in danger of death (or) serious bodily injury."

The evidence does, however, support the filing of three summary traffic citations, according to the news release.

The allegations: It happened at or near the corner of East Philadelphia and Duke streets at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 21, according to police.

Ongoing roadwork on North George Street and elsewhere around downtown York City has caused traffic delays throughout downtown York City.

Nova was rerouting traffic to clear the road for an ambulance that was rushing to a local hospital and carrying a child with a medical emergency, York City Officer Derek Hartman has confirmed for The York Dispatch. Hartman is the department's spokesman.

Police said the judge refused to comply with Nova's order to detour with the other traffic.

"He proceeded to travel after instructed not to, almost ran me over," Nova wrote in the withdrawn citation.

Two of the citations filed Friday allege that Menges "refused to comply with and willfully failed to obey a lawful order or direction of a uniformed police officer" and also drove with "careless disregard for the safety of persons or property."

The third citation alleges Menges, "in an emer(gency) response area, passed through the area at a speed not careful or prudent."

Footage not released: York City solicitor Jason Sabol has said the city is not releasing Nova's body-camera footage of the encounter.

"The reason for that is that the footage has been turned over to the district attorney's office for review ... to see if there would be any other appropriate charges," Sabol told The York Dispatch last month.

The DA's office also has not released the footage.

A Republican, Menges easily bested Democrat Sandra Thompson in November’s municipal election for York County common pleas judge. He was sworn in Jan. 3.

Before the election, a vast majority of York County Bar Association members rated Menges not qualified for the post.

Menges said bar association members didn’t approve of him because of his "Christian faith and conservative values."

His father is York County Common Pleas Judge N. Christopher Menges.

— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.