Pennsylvania Bar Association president Schwager steps down amid prostitution charges
APR 27, 2021 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: APR 29, 2021
WILKES-BARRE — A Luzerne County attorney who had been serving as president of the Pennsylvania Bar Association was charged with soliciting a prostitute who, in turn, threatened to post a video of their sexual encounter if she didn’t receive more cash, according to court records filed Tuesday.
County detectives charged David Eric Schwager, 58, of Kingston, with patronizing a prostitute; and charged Emily Ann Merth, 25, with promoting prostitution, theft by extortion and sexual extortion. The charges were filed with District Judge Rick Cronauer in Wilkes-Barre.
Schwager resigned his position as PBA president on Tuesday after the charges were filed.
David E. Schwager
He has been named a “Super Lawyer” by the Philadelphia Magazine every year since 2010, the only real estate practitioner in Northeastern Pennsylvania to receive that recognition.
Mr. Schwager has an “AV Rating” from Martindale-Hubbell and is listed in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers. An “AV Rating” is the organization’s highest honor, and is bestowed only on those who have reached the height of professional excellence.
In 2018, Schwager was elected as a Fellow of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers (ACREL). ACREL is a nonprofit association of lawyers established in 1978. Its members are elected to the College by demonstrating the highest level of integrity, commitment to the profession, competence and experience as real estate attornyes. All ACREL members have made substantial contributions to the field of real estate law through writing, teaching and bar leadership activities.
Schwager has served as a member of Pennsylvania’s Joint State Government Commission Advisory Committee on Real Property Law. This is a standing group of attorneys and judges from across the Commonwealth who assist the General Assembly by recommending improvements to Pennsylvania’s laws dealing with real property and related matters.
Mr. Schwager is a past chair of the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section of the Pennsylvania Bar Association. He is also a member of the American Bar Association House of Delegates, treasurer and director of the Middle District Bankruptcy Bar Association, and the Wilkes-Barre Law & Library Association (Luzerne County Bar Association), where he is the former Young Lawyer Division Chair and a member of the executive committee.
In 2012, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania appointed Mr. Schwager to the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and in 2017 named him its chair. The Board is dedicated to protecting the public, maintaining the integrity of the legal profession, and safeguarding the reputation of the courts.
In 2016, Mr. Schwager had the distinction of being appointed chair of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals Bankruptcy Judge Merit Selection Committee.
Active in the organized bar and professional activities, Mr. Schwager also has served as:
– Life Fellow and member of the board of directors, the Pennsylvania Bar Foundation
– Vice Chair, Pennsylvania Bar Association By Laws Committee
– Member, Middle District Bankruptcy Court Rules Committee
– Past Chair, Pennsylvania Bar Association Statutory Law Committee
– Past Chair, Pennsylvania Bar Association Financing of Real Estate Committee
– Past Vice Chair of the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law and Business Law Committees of the American Bar Association / Young Lawyers Division
Equally active in many civic and charitable undertakings, Mr. Schwager has served as:
– Board Member, Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry
– Board Member, Greater Wilkes-Barre Industrial Fund
– Board Member, Greater Wilkes-Barre Growth Partnership
– Treasurer, Ecumenical Enterprises, Inc.
– Vice President, Ecumenical Enterprises Foundation
– Member, Executive Committee of the Lafayette College Alumni Association
– Member, Wyoming Seminary President’s Council
– Past President, Wyoming Seminary Alumni Association
– Past Vice President, American Cancer Society
– Past Vice President, Greater Wilkes-Barre Jaycees
– Past Campaign Co-Chair, Osterhout Free Library
– Past Officer and Director, Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority
– Past Director, Junior Leadership Wilkes-Barre
– Past President, Temple Israel
– Past President, Jewish Community Center of Wyoming Valley
– Past President, S.J. Strauss Lodge of B’nai B’rith
– Chairman of the Board, United Hebrew Institute
– President, B’nai B’rith Apartments Foundation Board
– Chairman, 2007 Wilkes-Barre Jewish Federation Annual Campaign
– Past Director, Penns Woods Council of Girl Scouts of America
– Solicitor, District 16 Little League
– Solicitor, The Music Box Players, Swoyersville
– Solicitor, Northeast PA Scholastic Ice Hockey League
Mr. Schwager is a graduate of Lafayette College and The Dickinson School of Law of the Pennsylvania State University.
Merth has a 2019 prostitution conviction in Lehigh County and is currently facing charges of burglary, robbery, theft, simple assault and criminal conspiracy in York County.
Charges filed in York County say Merth was part of a scheme where a man was lured to a motel under the premise he was meeting a prostitute but instead was assaulted and robbed.
Merth is currently jailed at the Lehigh County Prison.
Frank Nocito, an attorney representing Schwager, declined comment on Tuesday.
According to the criminal complaints:
Schwager contacted county detectives on Dec. 30, 2019 saying he was the victim of an extortion scheme by a woman, identified as Merth, whom he met at 237-1/2 Carey Ave. in Wilkes-Barre.
Schwager claimed he responded to an advertisement for a female escort and was directed to the Carey Avenue address. The advertisement stated the woman accepted payment by cash or PayPal, was available 24/7 and indicated she was in the Wilkes-Barre area, also highlighting that she had no tattoos or piercings.
Schwager told detectives he sent a text message to the number listed on the advertisement. More text messages followed, discussing service prices and exchanging payment for sex, the complaints say.
Schwager claimed he arrived at the Carey Avenue residence that afternoon and learned the woman could not meet him because her landlord was home. They arranged to meet later on Dec. 30.
When Schwager returned to the address, he told detectives he was directed to a neighboring residence, where he said a completely naked Merth opened the door. Schwager claimed Merth was African American and not the same woman who appeared in the advertisement, the complaints say.
Merth asked Schwager if he was a “cop,” and Schwager asked Merth if she was a police officer. Both denied being law enforcement.
After Schwager entered the residence, cash was exchanged and the pair began to engage in sexual activity, an affidavit states.
During the sexual encounter, Schwager told detectives he noticed Merth recording their acts with a mobile device, the complaints say.
Schwager asked Merth what she was doing and she replied she also records pornography and sells the videos for money. Schwager told the woman he wanted no part of being recorded and Merth refused to stop, saying she would only record audio of their sexual encounter, according to the complaints.
Schwager told detectives he got dressed and left.
A short time after leaving, Schwager claimed he received a text message from Merth advising if he didn’t pay her $1,000, she would post the video “everywhere,” the complaints say.
Schwager told Merth to stop threatening to release the video and she lowered her demand to $700. Schwager made arrangements to drive to the residence to bring Merth the money.
As Schwager returned to the residence, detectives set up surveillance of the home and allegedly witnessed Merth exit the home and approach Schwager’s vehicle.
When detectives approached Merth, she ran away but was arrested after a brief foot chase.
Merth told detectives during an interview she created the escort advertisement and used her cell phone to communicate with clients. She admitted to making arrangements with Schwager to engage in sexual activity for money and using her cell phone to record their sexual act, the complaints say.
Merth allegedly claimed after Schwager left the residence, she used his number to find out his full name and business address and sent a text message to extort more money from Schwager by threatening to release the video of their sexual encounter.
Detectives said the video involving Schwager was located on Merth’s cell phone.
Preliminary hearing dates have not been scheduled.
County, PBA response
Schwager works as a Luzerne County assistant solicitor.
The administration placed him on administrative leave without pay Tuesday, according to an email sent to county council.
The Pennsylvania Bar Association released a statement Tuesday evening regarding the charges.
“Earlier today, our leadership team was notified that a misdemeanor charge was filed against the 2020-21 president, David Schwager. He has resigned,”
Pennsylvania Bar Association Executive Director Barry M. Simpson wrote.
“While the charge is troubling, every person accused of a crime is considered innocent until proven guilty, and we have confidence in the operation of our justice system,”
PBA 2020-21 President-elect Kathleen D. Wilkinson has automatically become the president, he added.