Aliquippa Investigation Continues to Derail

Aliquippa Assistant Police Chief Joseph Perciavalle III is facing a second criminal charge in connection with content found on his cell phone as part of the investigation into the death of teacher Rachael DelTondo, according to court records.

Assistant Chief Perciavalle, 43, of Aliquippa, is accused of secretly recording a 39-minute conversation between himself and police Chief Donald Couch on March 2, according to a criminal complaint. That’s the same day that Pennsylvania State Police executed a search warrant on Aliquippa city officesin connection with a grand jury investigation into allegations of theft.

In the recorded conversation, the pair discussed Aliquippa police, the pension fund, high school football and other topics, according to the complaint.

In Pennsylvania, one person cannot record a conversation with another person without both people’s permission. Chief Couch told investigators on June 29 that he never gave Assistant Chief Perciavalle permission to record the conversation.

Rachael DelTondo

Assistant Chief Perciavalle is charged with a single count of intercepting communications, a felony.

His attorney, Steven Townsend, said Tuesday that the complaint is “as written completely false.”

“There is a conversation on his cell phone, there’s no denying that, but the way it was recorded is definitely not as the affidavit reads,” Mr. Townsend said, adding that Assistant Chief Perciavalle denies any wrongdoing.

“I can’t get into specifics because there are other investigations going on,” the attorney said. “But there are certain exceptions under the wiretap act in which someone can be recorded — one [is] being in a public place, which this was.”

The complaint said Assistant Chief Perciavalle and Chief Couch “rode together on patrol” during the recorded conversation. Mr. Townsend said the pair was never in the same car.

“My client and Couch were not in the same patrol car when this conversation took place,” he said, and declined to elaborate.

Assistant Chief Perciavalle was also arrested in June on a separate felony charge of sending a sexually explicit video to a 17-year-old girl who later became a witness in Ms. DelTondo’s killing.

Aliquippa assistant police chief charged with sending sexually explicit material to minor

Authorities reviewed Assistant Chief Perciavalle’s phone records as part of the homicide investigation and discovered that he sent a video of a female urinating on a swing to the girl on May 10.

Assistant Chief Perciavalle was charged with sending the explicit video on June 8, two days after he took over as acting chief of the police department. He took leadership after Chief Couch was placed on paid administrative leave by city council for an unspecified reason that is not connected to the DelTondo investigation.

After Assistant Chief Perciavalle was arrested on June 8, longtime Capt. Robert Sealock was promoted to acting chief. He remains in the role.

Assistant Chief Perciavalle is scheduled to appear for preliminary hearings in both cases on Aug. 20.

Shelly Bradbury: 412-263-1999, sbradbury@post-gazette.com or follow @ShellyBradbury on Twitter. 

First Published July 10, 2018, 1:05pm

What you need to know about Act 235 and the PA Uniform Firearms Act

In late 2017, the Superior Court issued an absurd opinion regarding the interaction between Act 235 and PUFA.  It held that an individual who is Act 235 certified is not entitled to carry a firearm to and from work, absent a license to carry firearms, regardless of the language in Act 235 that requires a private security guard carry his/her certificate when “on duty or going to and from duty and carrying a lethal weapon.”  Although the Court stated that Act 235 and PUFA are not inconsistent, the opinion seems to indicate otherwise.

You might think that a person is exempt under Section 6106(b)(6), which declares:

(b)  Exceptions.  The provisions of subsection (a) shall not apply to:

(6) Agents, messengers and other employees of common carriers, banks, or business firms, whose duties require them to protect moneys, valuables and other property in the discharge of such duties.

Well according to the Court you would be dead wrong.  Why, well that question is a bit harder to answer as the Court stated that the EXCEPTIONS under Section 6106 are merely affirmative defenses.  What does that mean?  It means that the Commonwealth can and will arrest you if you have an Act 235 clearance, no firearm permit, AND you working in the scope of your employment.  It doesn’t make any sense, but they are effectively saying that it would be a lawful arrest and at trial you could defend yourself by asserting Section 6106(b)(6) as an affirmative defense.

Think about the exception in Section 6101(b)(1):  Constables, sheriffs, prison or jail wardens, or their deputies, policemen of this Commonwealth or its political subdivisions, or other law-enforcement officers.

Police officers, sheriffs etc. are not required to obtain concealed weapons permits for employment.  Therefore, under the Court’s reasoning, a police officer who is carrying a firearm and does not have a concealed fireman permit should be arrested and have to prove he was acting as a police officer at trial.

Clearly absurd.

If you are in law enforcement or have an Act 235 clearance, I strongly suggest that you obtain a license to carry under PUFA.

Juvenile Decertification

Attorney Steve Townsend represented Deontae Jones in this case and was the only lawyer who successfully argued to have his client’s case decertified back to juvenile court.  It took a great amount of effort and time, but as you can see, those efforts paid off.

The incident was a great tragedy, but hopefully it sends a message to others.

 

Lawrence “Pooh Rat” Reddick Jr. was found guilty Monday morning of first- and second-degree murder, robbery in 2016 Aliquippa double homicide.

BEAVER — The gallery of a Beaver County courtroom maintained a level of stoicism as a jury foreperson rendered its verdict Monday morning, convicting 19-year-old Lawrence “Pooh Rat” Reddick Jr. of first- and second-degree murder.

Some soft cries were heard from members of the victims’ families. Reddick himself showed little emotion as the verdict was read.

Reddick was found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of 18-year-old Dane Mathesius, of Brighton and New Sewickley townships, and second-degree murder of William Cade Booher, 16, of Beaver.

He also was found guilty of robbery, conspiracy, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and carrying a firearm without a license.

The jury returned after about 12 hours of deliberations, having worked out a proclaimed “impasse” that was reached Friday afternoon.

At that time, the jury told the court it was “at an 11 to 1 impasse” because one juror was “not following the definition of reasonable doubt.” The jury said the unidentified juror was looking for a 100 percent certainty in determining a verdict.

In response, Beaver County Judge Kim Tesla reread to the jury the definition of what beyond a reasonable doubt means. He sent them back to continue discussions.

Jurors were dismissed at about 5 p.m. Friday and returned at 9 a.m. Monday. The verdict was rendered at about 10 a.m.

The jury foreperson fought tears as the conviction was read. Upon request of the defense, the jurors were polled, each of them agreeing to the conviction.

“There were tears,” District Attorney David Lozier said after the verdict. “The foreman of the jury had difficulty reading the verdict slip. They obviously took this very seriously and have respect for the process.”

He thanked the jury for its time and commitment to the case.

“They came back with a very courageous verdict, a first-degree homicide verdict in this kind of circumstance is hard, it takes a lot of courage for a jury to come back with a first-degree homicide verdict,” Lozier said.

A sentencing date for Reddick has yet to be set. Because he was a juvenile at the time of the homicide, Reddick does not qualify for an automatic sentence of life imprisonment for the conviction of first-degree murder. His sentence will be left to the decision of Tesla, who presided over the trial.

Co-defendant Ronald “Reno” Foster, 19, was tried in August and was found guilty of third-degree murder. He was sentenced to serve between 34 and 70 years in prison.

Deontae Jones, 19, who testified in the case, also was charged in the shooting. He pleaded to a count of conspiracy to commit robbery in juvenile court and is awaiting sentencing.

All three teens were 17 years old at the time of the incident.

Lozier said the double homicide impacted families across Beaver County, including the families of the three defendants.

“We can’t forget the fact that we have two dead children and a third 13-year-old boy that watched this happen in the car,” he said. “It also impacted the families of Aliquippa. This impacted six families in a devastating way. There are no winners.”

Lozier also said Reddick’s conviction will bring some closure to the families of Mathesius, Booher and the 13-year-old witness, many of whom witnessed the entire Reddick trial, as well as the trial against Foster.

“There were always questions as to whether or not the community would take this loss seriously enough, and I think this verdict answers that question,” Lozier said.

Theft Charges Dismissed

BEAVER — Criminal charges filed against the owner of a defunct personal-care home were dismissed prior to a preliminary hearing.

Lynn M. Katekovich, 58, was accused by state police of withholding pay from employees at her Big Beaver-based facility, Katera’s Kove.

The 78-bed facility on Norwood Drive was closed in October after an employee reported not having been paid by Katekovich for two months of work. In all, three employees were named in a criminal complaint filed against her.

One former employee reported she was not paid $560 by Katekovich for hours she worked between Sept. 24 and Oct. 14, police said. Another told police she had not been paid for two months of work, though the report did not specify the amount she was owed.

Police said a third employee reported her insurance through the company Aflac was canceled in March when Katekovich stopped paying into the account, even though the employee said she had money taken out of her pay to cover the insurance, police said.

Katekovich’s defense attorney, Steven Townsend, said all three cases were dismissed. Only one of the cases, he said, was “valid.” Katekovich resolved that case by paying the employee the $560 she was owed.

In the case of the Aflac account, Townsend said documents showed that the employee was actually covered by the company and that the money had not been taken out.

The third employee did not cooperate with the investigation and failed to appear in court, Townsend said.

Three charges of theft were dismissed against Katekovich. Townsend said Katera’s Kove remains closed.

At the time she was charged, 19 residents were relocated from the home, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services.

SORNA – Constitutional Victory

This is one of the first cases in Pennsylvania to be resolved.

Order, PCRA, Redacted

I am pleased to have successffully represented a client who was unconstitutionally required to register as a sex offender since 2012.  In 2017, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that it is unconstitutional to require a person to register under 42 Pa.C.S. Chapter 97, where that person’s registration requirement had expired.  This decision focused on the SORNA legislation passed in 2012.

The SORNA legislation required individuals who for example, had a 10 registration requirement for certain offenses, to now register for life regardless of the initial registration requirements.  The Court got this one right and held that registration is  in essence a penalty and therefore, requiring an additional penalty was ex post facto and unconstitutional.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied a challenge to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision in Muniz filed by the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office.

Forensic Evidence – Is it reliable?

forensic

 

Generally one may think that the criminal cases are often won or lost based on what forensic evidence is presented to jurors. However, this article reveals that even forensic evidence can be fallible. The reality is that not all forensic scientific evidence is backed up with rigorous scientific research.

Throughout the article you will see how different types of forensic evidence made its way into the courtroom. It discusses the reliance by the prosecutors, FBI and the defense. What is interesting about the chronological studies is the way that science has evolved in order to form a more “exact” science as used in the courtroom. I encourage you to read how the forensic evidence was first used and how it is being used today.

Evidence refers to information or objects that may be admitted into court for judges and juries to consider when hearing a case. Evidence can come from varied sources — from genetic material or trace chemicals to dental history or fingerprints. Evidence can serve many roles in an investigation, such as to trace an illicit substance, identify remains or reconstruct a crime.

I have had many trials where  evidence was produced and where experts testified that the science is 100%. We now know this not to be true. In the end, cases are often won or lost on what evidence is produced.

Believe it or not, there are ways to challenge scientific and forensic evidence, such as attacking the chain of custody of blood samples or the improper calibration of a machines used to provide testimony.

https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/PCAST/pcast_forensic_science_report_final.pdf

You only get one chance

Once Chance

 

Serious crimes warrant a serious defense. The experience, dedication, and strategy of your Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyer will make the difference in your case.

Pittsburgh attorney Steven C. Townsend represents all those who face state and federal charges. Steven Townsend, is a leading Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney with an unprecedented reputation of integrity, professionalism, experience and results. With Eddy DeLuca Gravina & Townsend in your corner, you can trust that you made the right decision. 

 

       If you are being investigated or have been charged with a crime, and/or arrested, you need immediate legal help. As a Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyer, Steven C. Townsend will take the necessary time to meet with you to understand your situation so he can best proceed in your defense. Regardless of the crime,  Steven C. Townsend will take immediate action to ensure that your rights are protected.

       Many of our clients have never been involved with the criminal justice system. Each has a unique set of circumstances that prompted a criminal investigation or arrest. We carefully evaluate your case and proceed with the most compelling and aggressive criminal defense possible.

We handle cases in all areas of criminal law including:

DUI

Drug Offenses

Sex Crimes

Homicide and Violent Felonies

Federal Indictments and Investigations

White Collar Crimes

Firearm Violations

Sex Crimes

 

 

Contact Pittsburgh attorney Steven Townsend today by calling  412-281-5336, Toll Free at 877-900-5336 for a FREE CONSULTATION

Survivalist gets probation for 8 Molotov cocktails

Molotov

Molotov Cocktail

A Collier man claiming to be part of a New York survivalist group pleaded guilty Wednesday to possessing eight Molotov cocktails in his home last December.

Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Edward J. Borkowski sentenced Jacob Leo Phillips IV, 24, to five months of probation.

Collier police joined agents from the ATF and FBI in serving a search warrant Dec. 8 on Phillips’ home, where they found the eight homemade fire bombs, according to the criminal complaint against Phillips.

The complaint said Phillips and his landlord said they were both members of the New York-based Minutemen Militia, though criminal defense attorney Steven Townsend said it was actually the “Watchmen,” which was more of a survivalist group than a militia.

“It’s not a proactive organization, more of a reactive one … He was in the infancy stages, just getting his feet wet with this group,” Townsend said. “He’s now severed all ties.”

The only training Phillips had with the Watchmen, Townsend said, was in CPR and first aid.

Phillips told police he’d only used one of the Molotov cocktails and that was in a backyard fire pit the year before. But police said he had no license to make or possess them, and keeping them in a residential neighborhood was reckless.

Police charged Phillips with eight felony counts of unlawfully possessing or manufacturing a weapon of mass destruction (WMD) as well as a risking a catastrophe charge and eight misdemeanor counts of making an offensive weapon.

As part of his plea, prosecutors reduced the weapons of mass destruction charges to misdemeanor possession of incendiary devices, to which Phillips pleaded guilty. The other charges were withdrawn.

Townsend said the case was “overcharged” as WMD, since the law for incendiary devices specifically covers Molotov cocktails.

Phillips also had legally-owned firearms, ammunition, body armor and a cache of food and water in the home. Townsend said that under federal law, Phillips is now barred from possessing the guns and is in the process of determining how he will sell or transfer them. The items remain in the custody of police until such arrangements are made.

BY MATTHEW SANTONI

SEXTING

Sexting

Don’t underestimate the consequences of SEXTING

Call or text Steven C. Townsend for a FREE CONSULTATION. 412-901-7352

A conviction for teen sexting or child pornography can have extremely serious consequences. If you or your child is charged with such a crime as a result of teen sexting, you should contact Pittsburgh Attorney Steven C. Townsend, He has the experience handling these types of cases in juvenile and criminal court. Only an experienced criminal defense attorney can provide you with appropriate legal advice and inform you of the potential consequences of a conviction, including under what circumstances juvenile defendants may be required to register as sex offenders. Steven C. Townsend can tell you what to expect in court and help to you prepare the strongest possible defense.

Sexting is the sending of nude or suggestive photographs by text message, and, when teenagers do it, it can be illegal. Pennsylvania lawmakers have enacted a specific law that makes teen sexting a crime, but a less serious one than child pornography. However, depending on the circumstances, teen sexting could also be considered child pornography or obscenity.

Prior to the enactment of Pennsylvania’s teen sexting law, one case there received a lot of media attention. School officials discovered that students had been exchanging photos of nude and scantily clad teen girls and notified the local District Attorney. He met with the parents of the girls depicted in the photos and told them that the girls would have to participate in a diversionary program or face charges for possessing and distributing child pornography. The girls’ parents refused the diversion program, noting that the photos (one featuring a topless girl and another depicting two girls in their bras) were not pornographic and that the girls were the victims of someone else distributing the pictures. After the families sued, a federal court found that the proposed diversion program violated the girls’ and their parent’s constitutional rights and granted a restraining order to stop the prosecutor from pressing charges against the girls.

(Miller v. Skumanick, 605 F. Supp. 2d 634, 647 (M.D. Pa. 2009), aff’d sub nom. Miller v. Mitchell, 598 F.3d 139 (3d Cir. 2010).)

Punishment

Teen sexting. Teen sexting cases are often handled in juvenile court, where judges typically have greater discretion as to the outcome than they do in adult criminal court. Teens who possess images of other teens or who share images of themselves can be convicted of summary offenses. Summary offenses are punishable by up to 90 days in a jail and a fine of up to $300. The court may refer the teen to a diversionary program that includes an educational program about the consequences of sexting. If the teen successfully completes the program, the charges are expunged.

Sharing a teen sext depicting another person is a misdemeanor of the third degree, punishable by up to one year in jail and no more than $2,500 in fines. It is a misdemeanor of the second degree (punishable by up to two years’ incarceration and no more than $5,000 in fines) for a teen to share a sext of another teen without permission and in order to harass the child depicted. Under the teen sexting law, any cell phone or electronic communication device involved can be forfeited (taken by the state without compensation to the owner).

Ex-Coraopolis police chief pleads guilty in crash that seriously injured him, other driver

Screen Shot 2015-03-12 at 8.48.32 PM

By Jonathan D. Silver / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Former Coraopolis police chief Alan DeRusso, who pleaded guilty Friday to charges stemming from a crash he caused last year that seriously injured another driver, has no memory of the incident, his attorney said.

“This is the main reason why he decided to plead guilty,” lawyer Steven C. Townsend said. “Due to the severity of the accident, he basically lost memory from two weeks prior to the accident to a week after. He doesn’t remember anything.”

Mr. DeRusso, 56, pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor counts of recklessly endangering another person. As part of the plea deal, the Allegheny County district attorney’s office agreed to drop one felony count of aggravated assault with a motor vehicle. Sentencing is set for Jan. 28 before Common Pleas Judge Anthony M. Mariani.

The crash occurred at 8:14 a.m. Aug. 7, 2014, at Route 51 and Thorn Run Road in Moon. Moon police said Mr. DeRusso’s unmarked police vehicle ran a red light and struck a woman’s vehicle, which had a green light as it crossed the intersection.

The driver of that vehicle, Kristy Grazier, lost her appendix and 17 inches of her intestine, had a concussion, a chipped vertebrae and had a broken skull bone.

Mr. DeRusso was charged in January. A police affidavit said the chief was driving 80 mph three seconds before the crash, though Mr. Townsend said the vehicle had slowed to about 50 mph by the time of impact. Investigators wrote that they found no evidence that Mr. DeRusso was responding to an emergency.

Mr. Townsend said his client does not remember where he was headed.

Mr. DeRusso, who has been on administrative leave since January and is receiving workers’ compensation, submitted a letter Thursday taking early retirement immediately.

Mr. Townsend said his client apologized in court to Ms. Grazier, a single mother with two children.

“Will I ever be able to drive through an intersection without hesitation again?” Ms. Grazier wrote in a victim-impact statement. “I’m hoping that another person will never have to go through an ordeal like this again because of someone’s irresponsibility.”