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How did Judge O'Kicki escape justice after his conviction?: His wife's role, Bruce Siwy podcast

Updated: Jan 22, 2023

How did Judge O’Kicki escape justice after his conviction: With help from his wife, Sylvia Onusic. Repost Bruce Siwy on O’Kicki: Sylvia Onusic helped convicted husband to escape justice in America

Previous Post -- Bruce Siwy has made the podcasts into a book -- see below

Injustice in Pennsylvania: Sylvia Onusic, the former Bishop Carroll High School teacher who married Judge O’Kicki, gave his passport to authorities after he was convicted, but failed to tell them about his Slovenian passport: Result was he escaped from the U.S. twice … Our Town/Daily American podcast “Jailing the Judge”

From Our Town podcast:

Can you explain to me how you got out of the country since you had to forfeit your American passport?

He said, ‘I’m not an American’.

Brian Sukenik, friend of O’Kicki’s: Telephone conversation with O’Kicki from Slovenia

How in the world did a Pennsylvania Common Pleas judge who was convicted of public corruption and sentenced to two to five years in prison manage to escape from the United States without a passport — not once but twice?

That was the topic for the latest podcast by Bruce Siwy tackled on the latest installment entitled “Jailing the Judge: The Joseph F. O’Kicki Story.”

This is excellent journalism as Siwy and his colleagues who were working on the story delved into how O’Kicki managed to leave the U.S. and travel to Slovenia even though he was forbidden to do so and had no American passport. What Siwy discovered was that O’Kicki claimed that he was no longer an American and still retained his Slovenian passport. So, in effect, he used his Slovenian passport to elude authorities.

All of the questions are not answered in this, but it answers quite a few of them.


Judge Joseph O’Kicki was the president judge of Cambria County Court of Common Pleas in 1988 when state investigators discovered that he was involved in some illegal activity. After conducting surveillance, state police started an investigation.

The result was an extensive indictment, though some charges were eventually dismissed. He was eventually convicted of official public corruption in late 1989, and in June 1990, was sentenced to two to five years in a state prison.

The authorities then planned to conduct a second trial for O’Kicki, which was when the problems occurred.

In March 1993, the Morning Call newspaper in Allentown wrote this about O’Kicki,

Former Cambria County President Judge Joseph F. O'Kicki was declared a fugitive from justice yesterday and warrants were issued for his arrest when he failed to appear in Northampton County Court for a hearing on the start of his jail term for official corruption.

Northampton County Senior Judge Richard D. Grifo also revoked the 62-year-old former jurist's $10,000 bail after state Chief Deputy Attorney General Lawrence N. Claus outlined the attempts made by prosecutors to determine O'Kicki's whereabouts …

In late February, the state Supreme Court refused to hear O'Kicki's appeal of the two-to-five-year sentence Grifo set on June 28, 1990, after a jury in 1989 found O'Kicki guilty of six counts of misconduct in office. O'Kicki still faces trial in Northampton County Court on charges stemming from allegations of misconduct in his private affairs.

Gay Elwell, “Judge O’Kicki fails to show for hearing; Declared a fugitive,” March 9, 1993

Interview with Sylvia Onusic O’Kicki, podcast

Bruce Siwy, the editor and reporter for the O’Kicki podcast, placed the question succinctly:

With prison on the horizon, he began making plans to fly out of the country. According to a state police record, Onusic surrendered O’Kicki’s passport on April 7, 1989. But, how was the able to fly out of America undetected?

Bruce Siwy, “Jailing the Judge: The Joseph O’Kicki Story,” 2019-20

The question that still bothers me is that anyone who helped O’Kicki escape to a country that had no extradition with the U.S. at that time should have been prosecuted. What the Our Town podcast revealed was that Onusic, going by the name of Sylvia O’Kicki at the time, gave up the convicted judge’s American passport to authorities.

However, she was aware that somehow, he retained dual citizenship even though he was born in the United States. His biography notes this,

Joseph O'Kicki was born in Park Hill, Pa on August 16, 1930, son of Antonia

Martincic and Joseph O'Kicki, both immigrants from Slovenia.

So, O’Kicki’s parents could have had dual citizenship, but how could he have held it? And, when did he secure the Slovenian passport?

Good questions.

Sylvia Onusic revealed that O’Kicki made two trips to Slovenia, the first of which did not come to the attention of authorities when he made it in 1992. According to the Our Town/Daily American podcast,

Onusic said that her husband made a total of two trips between the United States and Slovenia, in 1992 and [again in] 1993.

‘He went to Canada, he flew to Germany, rented a car, and he drove down to Slovenia. Nobody reported who sold him the tickets. It was a State College travel agency, a friend of ours, sold him the tickets. I talked to this [person] and said that I was sorry, that you didn’t have any problems when the police came to see you. ‘Oh, heck no, I got so much business over that.’ That was the first time,’ [Onusic said].

Bruce Siwy, “Jailing the Judge: The Joseph O’Kicki Story,” 2019-20

So, Onusic knew about how he was about to use his Slovenia passport, and so did a travel agent in State College, who conspired to allow a convicted judge leave the country without alerting authorities.

Why, then, were neither prosecuted for obstruction of justice or other conspiracy violations?

Good question.

Onusic just happened to earn a Fulbright scholarship to Slovenia?

Sylvia O’Kicki changed her name back to her maiden name, Sylvia Onusic, in 1991. She was working on a Ph.D. from Penn State in nutrition studies at that time, and she was obviously bright because she had earned a Fulbright scholarship to Slovenia at that time.

The couple had two sons, and O’Kicki had seven children in his first marriage, which ended in a reportedly bitter divorce.

So, why did she select Slovenia, of all countries in the world in which to do this? Because she knew that her husband was there and could join her and their two sons.

Today, Onusic touts herself as a “Researcher, Writer, Analyst, Speaker,” on her LinkedIn bio. She has developed a website that is entitled “Nutrition Power,”

With biochemistry, biology and other sciences as a base, I gather evidence, examine records, even go where few have gone before to find clues to bring you the latest, greatest, unbiased, and accurate information that you can use for your family.

Whether the scientific study is online at, or on the ground at the National Library of Medicine, National Archives, Library of Congress or some university archive, in English, German or French, I am there tracking the clues to solve the puzzle, connect the dots and discover the bottom line.

With all of that knowledge an intelligence, how is it possible that she did not know that she was breaking the law when she concealed the fact that her husband had a Slovenian passport and had left the country in 1992?

O’Kicki had renounced his American citizenship

The quotations from Brian Sukenik on the podcast, identified as a friend of O’Kicki’s, is illustrative of his mindset when he says that he is not an American.

Pennsylvania State Trooper Walt Komeroski still does not buy that logic as he explains on the podcast,

Not sure what the dynamic was there, but he still had his Yugoslav passport. We thought by taking his United States passport from him, that we were guaranteed his presence at the second trial.

Not aware of that until he fled.

Bruce Siwy, “Jailing the Judge: The Joseph O’Kicki Story,” 2019-20

The interesting part of the “obituary” about O’Kicki that I read is this part, which illustrates that his wife is still in denial,

He retired and moved to Slovenia in 1993 where he worked for Gospardarski

Vestnik, the largest business publishing house in Slovenia; as a teacher for the

public school system and private English instructor; as a translator; and a

consultant to Mayor Rupel.


It should read,

He was convicted of seven counts of official public corruption, forced to resign as a judge because of the conviction and was disbarred, and he was sentenced to prison, but before that, he fled American authorities by traveling to Slovenia, which had no extradition treaty with the U.S.

Our Town/Daily American podcast

Judge Joseph O’Kicki escaped from the U.S. without an American passport, not once as police believed, but twice.

O’Kicki has somehow managed to obtain Slovenian citizenship, and thus a passport from the country, and used in 1992 and 1993, flaunting justice.

O’Kicki’s wife, who now goes by Sylvia Onusic, admitted on the excellent Our Town/Daily American podcast that the late judge traveled to Slovenia through Canada twice — on his Slovenian passport.

The question is why people who knew about these trips and even supplied him with air travel knowing that he was a convicted criminal, were never held to account.

These podcasts are excellent journalism, raising contemporary questions by interviewing people involved in the case and using historical research to buttress their points.

And one that I will post later is why Judge Jerry Long declined to prosecute Onusic for her assistance to her criminal husband.

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