A federal judge candidly acknowledged that he thought witnesses who testified for the Dover Area School District lied during the intelligent design trial, but people involved in the case said they don't know whether the witnesses will face perjury charges.

Two parents in the case, though, said they would want to make sure witnesses are held accountable if they lied.

Judge John E. Jones III's statements - made in a 139-page ruling against the school district and its former board -- named former board members William Buckingham and Alan Bonsell as among those whose testimony contained "flagrant and insulting falsehoods."

In Tuesday's decision, Jones banned Dover schools from ever enforcing an intelligent design policy and ruled intelligent design is religion, not science.

Jones said that "although the defendants have unceasingly attempted in vain to distance themselves from their own actions and statements, which culminated in repetitious, untruthful testimony, such a strategy constitutes additional strong evidence ..." that the defendants had religious motivations.

Buckingham, who resigned from the board over the summer and moved to Mount Airy, N.C., did not return a call for comment.

Bonsell denies lying: Bonsell said he didn't lie.

"That's not something I do," he said. "The people that know me know that."

He said perjury charges are "something that would obviously be a concern, but I didn't lie ... I don't know why they would say that.



During the trial, Jones confronted the two former board members and current board member Heather Geesey about inconsistencies between depositions taken in preparation for the case and their testimony in court.

Jones grilled the witnesses, even asking Bonsell if he realized he was under oath.

But the judge stopped short of holding anyone in contempt of court, a punishment that Barbara Kosik-Whitaker, an assistant U.S. attorney for the Middle District in Scranton, said the judge could have applied.

She said she has seen only about 20 or 25 perjury cases in 27 years on her job.

"It is prosecuted, but I can't tell you with what frequency," she said. "Sometimes you would think it would be very easy: They said one thing, then they said another."

She said it's "not often that easy" to prove dishonesty.

How process works: Kosik-Whitaker said perjury charges can be referred to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which investigates whether there is evidence of perjury.

But the U.S. Attorney's Office decides if there is enough evidence to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" that someone committed perjury and files charges, she said.

General perjury carries a statutory maximum of five years in prison, and $250,000 is the maximum fine, Kosik-Whitaker said.

There are no mandatory minimum sentences or fines.

She said anyone can refer a potential perjury case to the Attorney's Office, but it is typically referred by a lawyer for the people who were perjured against.

Witold Walczak, legal director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, and Eric Rothschild, an attorney for Pepper Hamilton law firm, were the top attorneys for the parents.

The two attorneys said they haven't referred anybody for perjury charges and there are currently no discussions about it.

"We have not pushed that issue ... because we've been focused on the case," Walczak said.

Called worth investigating: Parents and plaintiffs in the case Joel Leib and Tammy Kitzmiller said the perjury charges are worth investigating.

"If there was lying there and it could be proved, I would be one to push it," Leib said. "Our whole judicial system is built on getting up there and telling the truth."

Parent and plaintiff Bryan Rehm, who is also a candidate for a single open seat on the school board, said members of the former school board must be "held accountable for their lies" before the community can have closure on the debate over intelligent design.

Leib, Kitzmiller and Rehm said they would refer the case for FBI review themselves before seeing the issue die.

"If no one else would step forward and the possibility of perjury charges was going to be dropped, I definitely would pursue it," Kitzmiller said.

She said the judge "repeatedly" referred to lying throughout his decision.

It is possible that federal attorneys have already been made aware of the judge's mentions of lying: Many local and national print and television media venues have reported Jones' remarks.

But a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Harrisburg, which would oversee perjury charges in the Dover case, would not confirm or deny that office is investigating charges related to the trial.

Former U.S. Attorney David Barasch said he couldn't comment specifically about the Dover allegations.

But speaking from his eight years of experience, it is "relatively uncommon" for complaints of perjury to be brought to the attention of a prosecutor by a judge who presided over the case. And it is rare for such complaints to be identified in an opinion.

"But when it is done, it is taken very seriously by law enforcement because candor under oath is a very serious matter."

-- Reach Christina Kauff man at 505-5434 or ckauffman@yorkdispatch.com.