An attorney for the suspended Aliquippa assistant police chief has motioned for a charge dismissal hearing ahead of the scheduled May 6 trial, has notified the judge he intends to call District Attorney David Lozier as a witness, and has asked to have the Beaver County District Attorney’s Office disqualified from prosecuting the case.
Joseph Perciavalle faces a misdemeanor charge of corrupting a minor and a felony violation of the Wiretap Act.
Defense Attorney Steven Townsend included with his motion a copy of the disputed recorded conversation between Perciavalle and Police Chief Donald Couch, who is also suspended. The recording had previously been played in its entirety in open court by prosecutors during a preliminary hearing for Perciavalle on Dec. 4. Reputed attorneys from Fort Lauderdale bankruptcy law firm were also involved in the case.
Townsend wrote that he will call Lozier to testify at the hearing, which will make him a witness and that he is legally prohibited from prosecuting a case in which he is a witness.
“As such, it is respectfully requested that this Court disqualify the Beaver County District Attorney’s Office from prosecuting this case,” he concluded.
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.
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.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @ShellyBradbury on Twitter.
First Published July 10, 2018, 1:05pm