Chief Public Defender
Nicole Sloane Kondrlik was appointed the Chief Public Defender of the Erie County Pennsylvania Office of the Public Defender in January 2022. Her career in the office began in 2006 and she has represented consumers in over 4700 cases continuing to carry a caseload as Chief. Attorney Sloane Kondrlik previously served in the capacity of Chief of the Appellate Division and First Assistant Public Defender. She is a faculty member for the Public Defender’s Association annual statewide training and also prepares and presents continuing legal education classes for criminal law attorneys in Erie. She represented the last three defendants facing the death penalty in Erie County. In 2017, the Pennsylvania Public Defender Association awarded Attorney Sloane Kondrlik the Gideon Award during their annual meeting in Harrisburg in recognition of her dedication and zealous representation. She serves as a Board member of both the Public Defender Association and Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
Since assuming the responsibilities of Chief, Attorney Sloane Kondrlik has dedicated her time to representing seriously mentally ill consumers. She also has redistributed caseloads to improve effective assistance of counsel. Attorney Sloane Kondrlik continues to make changes to benefit Public Defender clients.
Attorney Sloane Kondrlik is an Army veteran having served first as an enlisted soldier before earning a regular Army commission. She is airborne qualified.
In addition to serving Erie County as its Chief Public Defender, Attorney Sloane Kondrlik, her husband and family are proud to be farmers and raise crops as well as livestock in rural Erie County.
First Assistant Public Defender
Attorney Michael DeJohn currently serves as the First Assistant Public Defender to Erie County, Pennsylvania. He has worked as an Assistant Public Defender in both Erie and Crawford Counties since 2002.
He is a lifelong resident of Erie, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Cathedral Preparatory School, obtained his Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice from Gannon University, and his Juris Doctorate from the University of Dayton – School of Law in 2000. While in school, he was the Magister (President) of Phi Delta Phi, an International Honors Legal fraternity, and Vice President of the Criminal Law Association.
He is a former Prosecutor’s Aide, law clerk, and legal arbitrator. Attorney DeJohn specializes in criminal cases and has handled over 8,000 cases at all stages within the past several decades. He is a skilled trial lawyer and is in a courtroom nearly every day. He is the former Chair of the Criminal Defense Section of the Erie County Bar Association (2022). He is also a licensed and commissioned Notary Public (since 2008).
Outside of work, Attorney DeJohn is involved as a Board Member and Treasurer of the Erie Free Store, Inc., Attorneys & Kids Together Mentoring Program (since 2007), Former Lay Leader of Koinonia of Erie County, and Scouts BSA Troop 61 Treasurer and Pack 61 Den Leader. He is an avid guitar player and has been part of several worship bands since 2005.
Attorney DeJohn is proud to have dedicated his career to indigent defense.
Emily M. Merski, Esquire is a part-time Assistant Public Defender (2013-present) in the Appellate Division and maintains a private practice at the Vendetti & Vendetti Law Firm. Attorney Merski concentrates her practice in the areas of criminal defense at both the trial and appellate levels and dependency litigation.
Born and raised in Erie, Pennsylvania, Attorney Merski graduated from Mercyhurst University in 2004 with a B.A. in English and in 2006 with a M.S. in Applied Intelligence and then Pennsylvania State Dickinson School of Law in 2010.
Attorney Jessica Fiscus joined the Erie County Public Defender’s Office part time in 2017. As a member of the appellate division, she represents those convicted of crimes or recommitted as state parole violators in their appeals to the Superior Court, Commonwealth Court and Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. She also assists individuals with filing PCRA petitions and in achieving reductions in court-ordered financial obligations following conviction.
Attorney Fiscus received her Bachelor of Arts in the Program of Liberal Studies from the University of Notre Dame in 1997. She graduated cum laude from the Case Western Reserve School of Law in 2000. For the next several years, she served as a staff attorney for Judges Michael Joyce and Fred Anthony in the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.
In 2008, Attorney Fiscus started a private practice in Erie, Pennsylvania, which focuses on direct appeals, the filing of PCRA petitions and collateral appeals, juvenile defense, and family law. She is a member of the Erie County and Pennsylvania Bar Associations and the Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. She serves on SafeNet’s Protection from Abuse Coordinated Services Board, as a volunteer with the Veterans Legal Clinic and Highmark Caring Place, and as a solicitor for the Charter School of Excellence.
Andona Zacks-Jordan (she/her) joined the Office of the Public Defender in February of 2020. In addition to serving as a part-time Assistant Public Defender, Andona works as an attorney, mediator, collaborative professional, and ally to assist individuals and families to resolve issues peacefully, with dignity and respect. Andona is a founding partner of A to Z Law Erie, and a proud member of the National LGBTQ+ Bar Association.
Andona graduated from Stetson University College of Law, where she earned a Certificate of Concentration in Trial Advocacy in addition to her law degree. During law school, Andona assisted veterans through Stetson's Veterans Advocacy Clinic, interned with Bay Area Legal Services, and completed an externship with Florida's Sixth Judicial Circuit Court for the Honorable Philip J. Federico. Andona also volunteered as a pro bono student caseworker through the Innocence Initiative at Stetson Law to exonerate and free incarcerated individuals who assert they have been wrongfully convicted. After law school, she worked as a volunteer attorney with Gulfcoast Legal Services before returning to Erie, her hometown.
Kelsey M. Sheely, Esquire is a part-time Assistant Public Defender and maintains a private practice with The Family Law Group. Attorney Sheely concentrates her practice in family law, dependency, and juvenile criminal matters.
Attorney Sheely received her undergraduate degree from Duquesne University in 2013, followed by her Juris Doctor from The University of Pittsburgh School of Law in 2016. While at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, Attorney Sheely interned for The Honorable John L. Musmanno of the Pennsylvania Superior Court, received a CALI Excellence for the Future Award in family law and received the Wilder, Mahood, McKinley & Oglesby Family Law Award.
In 2015, Celena Sidun graduated cum laude from Mercyhurst University with a B.A. in Criminal Justice and a minor in Psychology of Crime and Justice. In 2019, she graduated from Duquesne University School of Law, and received the Shalom Moot Court Award for trial advocacy. While in law school, Celena interned at the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office, as well as at Neighborhood Legal Services. Celena was a student attorney in the Civil Rights Clinic, and volunteered with the Reed Smith Name Change Project.After law school, Celena clerked for the Honorable Marshall J. Piccinini, and then started her work at the Public Defender's Office in March of 2020.
In April of 2022, Abigail Groner joined the Erie County Public Defender’s Office with a concentration in State and County Revocations. In December of 2022, the Public Defender Association of Pennsylvania announced that they chose Abigail to receive the 2022 Rico Award for her exceptional advocacy. The Rico award, otherwise known as the Fred Goodman New Attorney Award, annually honors one assistant public defender with three years of experience or less who is nominated for extraordinary performance.
Abigail graduated from the University of Dayton School of Law in January of 2014 where she was on the Honor Counsel, a Law School Ambassador, and the President of the Volunteer Law Service Project. After graduation she clerked for two Common Pleas Judges, the Honorable Shad Connelly and the Honorable Joseph M. Walsh, III. She then became a Case Administrator in the Federal Court System for the Honorable Thomas P. Agresti.
As an Erie Native, Abigail graduated high school from Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy and received her B.A. in English and a supplemental degree in Secondary Education from Mercyhurst University. She is currently on the Board of the Erie Irish Festival and a member of Athena Circle of Trust.
Alison Scarpitti graduated in three years from Mercyhurst University in 1996 with a B.A. in history and a minor in Spanish. Her senior thesis was published in the Erie Journal of Historical Studies, and has been cited by historical scholars. During college, she worked part-time as a paralegal for her father, Attorney William Scarpitti. She attended Vermont Law School and graduated in 2001.She returned to Erie and began practicing criminal and family law. In 2003 she joined the Erie County Public Defender’s Office as a part-time assistant public defender, where she represented adult and juvenile clients. During that time, she presented seminars on juvenile law locally, and for the Pennsylvania Juvenile Law Conference. Alison has served as the chairman of the Erie County Bar Association criminal law section, and the Chairman of the Erie County Drug and Alcohol Commission. She has also served on the board of directors for the Flagship Niagara League and the Erie County Historical Society, as well as pro bono counsel for the Greater Erie Alliance for Equality and the mayor’s LGBTQ advisory board.
Alison has been representing criminal defendants for over 20 years.
Attorney Johnson received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in English with distinction from Penn State – Behrend. Following his graduation he attended the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State University and interned as a clerk for a U.S. Magisterial Judge in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. Mr. Johnson graduated and received his law degree a semester earlier than the traditional three year program. Mr. Johnson was admitted to the practice of law in Pennsylvania in 1996 and began working as an associate attorney with a local law firm. He has also worked as an attorney for a standing Chapter 7 Trustee in the Western District of Pennsylvania Bankruptcy Court. He joined the Public Defender’s Office in 2004 as a part time assistant in the adult criminal division. He developed his private practice in the areas of personal injury, domestic relations, bankruptcy and criminal law. He has also represented parents in dependency proceeding initiated by the Office of Children and Youth. He continued to work as a part time attorney in the Public Defender’s office since 2004 until joining the office full time in 2019.
Before joining our Erie office, Matthew Thomas was a public defender in Venango County, a law clerk for multiple judges in Erie and also worked in private practice.While in private practice, Matthew handled a variety of different legal areas, ranging from estate planning to debt collection and defense.
Matthew has also had a long career as a writer and editor, penning over 50 columns, editorials and letters for publications including the Gannon Knight, Washington Times and the Elmira NY Star Gazette, along with two books on history and law.
Matthew graduated from Ohio Northern University in 2012, where he received an award for being the best researcher and writer in his senior writing seminar.
He is very proud to have graduated from Gannon in 2009, where he received an award for being the top graduating senior in the political science department.
Brian D. Arrowsmith, Esquire is a part-time Assistant Public Defender (2014-present) and law partner at the law firm of Carney & Good (2014-present). Attorney Arrowsmith concentrates his practice in the areas of criminal defense (both adult and juvenile) and family law litigation, while also handling cases involving wills and estates.
Previously, Attorney Arrowsmith served Erie County as an Assistant District Attorney (2010-2014) subsequent to his experience as a law clerk to the Honorable Shad Connelly of the Erie County Court of Common Pleas (2007-2010), and as a federal law clerk in Cleveland, Ohio, to the Honorable Perry J. Rhew, Chief Administrative Law Judge for the Office of Medicare Hearing and Appeals in the United States Department of Health and Human Services (2005-2007).
An Erie County Native, Attorney Bickel is a graduate of Fort LeBoeuf High school and Penn State University. After graduating with honors from Syracuse University College of Law, he came back to Erie to open his own law practice, focusing on criminal and family law.
For 20 years, Attorney Bickel has represented defendants all over Northwest Pennsylvania, in both state and federal court.
He is currently the chairman of the criminal defense section of the Erie County Bar Association and has been a part time public defender for 19 years.
A proud father of 3, Attorney Bickel enjoys all sports and on his rare off days enjoys golfing and spending time with family.
As an Assistant Public Defender from 2000 to 2005, and from 2016 to the present, Attorney Natalie has represented thousands of indigent clients facing a myriad of criminal charges. These include virtually all charges under the crimes code, ranging from motor vehicle offenses to homicide offenses, including multiple clients facing Homicide by Motor Vehicle While DUI, Drug Delivery Resulting in Death, and Attempted Homicide.
In his solo practice, Attorney Natalie focuses in the areas of:
- Criminal Defense
- Civil Litigation
- Estate Law, including litigation, planning and administration
In addition to his law practice, Attorney Natalie has served as managing partner of a real estate development company responsible for the historical restoration, redevelopment, and management of commercial property in downtown Erie. He has also served as an adjunct instructor of legal studies at Gannon University. He also takes an active role in community affairs through extensive volunteer positions for numerous civic and professional organizations in Erie County, including long-time service on his local school board, the Boys and Girls Club of Erie board of directors, and the Erie Playhouse board of directors.
Over the course of his distinguished career, he has assumed leadership positions in the Erie County Bar Association, including Board of Directors Member, Young Lawyers Division Chair, and Civil Practice Section Chair.
Most recently, following public voting, Attorney Natalie was selected as the Erie Times News "Erie's Choice" for Best Attorney in 2022.
Attorney Natalie was born and raised in "Little Italy" in the City of Erie, Pennsylvania. His upbringing has led to a personal philosophy that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, while afforded the legal rights provided by our Constitution. This often means zealously representing clients and serving the cause of justice in cases which may not be politically popular in the community.
Krista Ott, Esquire was born and raised in Erie, PA. She went to Mercyhurst Preparatory School and graduated college from the University of Dayton. She earned her Juris Doctor from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA.
Throughout her career, Attorney Ott has interned for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, was a staff attorney for the Superior Court of Pennsylvania as well as the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County, was the Solicitor for the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County, and practiced privately. She served as an Assistant Public Defender from 1996-2000 and again from 2020 until the present.