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New Northampton County DA details changes to modernize office, boost mental health services

Morning Call - 1/3/2020

Jan. 3--Northampton County's new district attorney announced plans Friday to reorganize his staff of prosecutors, embrace social media and increase focus on the county's mental health and drug courts.

Terence Houck, the former longtime assistant of outgoing District Attorney John Morganelli, announced several changes Friday at a news conference. Houck represents a new face after 28 years, replacing his former boss, who is now a county judge.

Houck named Richard Pepper, 71, as his first assistant district attorney, the post Houck formerly occupied. Pepper, of Hanover Township, is a veteran prosecutor in the district attorney's office who was planning to retire at the end of 2019 before Houck courted him for the lieutenant's job.

Pepper's tenure stretches decades, and he helped prosecute Lehigh University freshman Jeanne Ann Clery's killer in 1987, winning a death sentence. That was later overturned at appeal, but Josoph Henry, 54, who was also a Lehigh student, is serving a life term in prison.

"He is a high-character guy and is a mentor to the young prosecutors," Houck said. "I am honored that he's taking on this critical role for me."

For the first time, Houck said all 22 prosecutors in the office will work full time.

Houck also named a panel of chief deputy district attorneys:

-- William Blake will be in charge of investigations, including the grand jury and major crimes unit. Blake will try cases arising from presentments received from the grand jury.

-- Patricia Mulqueen will oversee all pending prosecutions, and serve as chief of the violent crime unit.

-- Tatum Wilson will work as a chief deputy district attorney in charge of training, in addition to her duties as chief of the sexual assault and child abuse unit.

Houck said for the first time, he'll require all of his attorneys to participate in volunteer outreach programs as a way to give back to the community. He suggested organizations such as the Salvation Army and animal and homeless shelters.

Prosecutors also will participatein the county's problem-solving courts by having an assistant district attorney sit on the boards of the county's mental health and drug courts.

He said the district attorney's website will be updated, and the office will establish a social media presence "in hopes of creating an improved information source for the public."

Morning Call reporter Pamela Lehman can be reached at 610-820-6790 or plehman@mcall.com.

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