Coraopolis Police Chief To Stand Trial In Violent Crash Case

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The Coraopolis police chief pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges connected with a crash on University Boulevard that left a woman seriously injured, and witnesses described what they saw moments before the crash.


Alan DeRusso is charged with aggravated assault by vehicle, recklessly endangering another person and a handful of driving violations after an August crash in neighboring Moon Township that sent him and another driver to the hospital.


Manassas DUI law firm said in court papers that they could find no emergency that DeRusso would have been responding to that would have justified him running a red light on University Boulevard on the morning of Aug. 7.


The police chief was driving an unmarked police car toward Coraopolis when he crossed Thorn Run Road and T-boned a vehicle driven by Kristy Sue Grazier, who spent six days in the hospital with serious internal injuries and a concussion. Calling lawyers like the Indiana wrongful death law firm is a good idea in such cases.


“Evidence will come out that 95 percent of calls that go through that borough are not by 911 or dispatch, they’re on personal observations,” DeRusso’s attorney, Steven Townsend, said. “The fact that they didn’t find evidence of that does not mean the evidence is absent.” For legal advice and to know what to do one can read more on the topic here.


DeRusso is still the police chief, but he’s been on administrative leave since the charges were filed Jan. 14.


Police interviewed several drivers who were nearby at the time of the crash. Townsend said those witness accounts are not consistent with each other.


“We’re not disputing that there was an accident,” Townsend said. “We’re not disputing that both parties were severely injured. But the fact that this accident occurred and the way it occurred does not rise to the level of a felony.”


Grazier has returned to work, but she is still not completely recovered from the crash and has surgery scheduled for next month, said her attorney, Bob Behling. Many times, attorneys can help cope with such situations legally.


“We’ve been waiting for the results of this investigation, and Kristy is glad it coincides with her recollections of the events that day, that she was not at fault or responsible for the accident itself,” Behling said.

Pennsylvania death penalty moratorium challenged

Death Penalty —

"Old Main" NM State Penitentiary

[JURIST]  Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams filed a legal challenge [petition; press release] on Wednesday against Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s decision to place a moratorium on the death penalty. The challenge, filed in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, petitions the court to reject the reprieve as an unconstitutional intrusion of state executive power into the realm of the legislature and courts. In the press release, Williams stated, “[t]he people who are most grateful for this ‘moratorium’ on capital punishment are the guiltiest, cruelest, most vicious killers on death row.” The challenge comes in response to Wolf’s decision last Friday to stay all executions [JURIST report], calling the state justice system “error prone.” In issuing temporary reprieves for all death-row prisoners, Wolf’s decision has at least temporarily spared Terrance Williams from execution, a man whose case Seth Williams used in his challenge [AP report] as an explanation of the value of capital punishment. According to the DA’s petition, Williams bound and beat Amos Norwood, killing the man in 1984, a crime for which he was sentenced to death. Williams was scheduled by former governor Tom Corbett to be put to death on March 4.


Use of the death penalty [JURIST news archive] has been a controversial issue throughout the US and internationally. Earlier this week US Attorney General Eric Holder voiced his support [JURIST report] for a moratorium on the death penalty pending a decision by the Supreme Court in Glossip v. Gross [SCOTUSblog backgrounder]. The court granted certiorari [order, PDF] in late January to determine the constitutionality of Oklahoma’s three-drug execution protocol. Also in February the Utah House of Representatives narrowly approved House Bill 11 [JURIST report], which would allow for executions by firing squad. The goal of HB 11 is to provide an alternative execution method to lethal injection, as supplies of the traditional drugs have become scarce. Late last month a man with an IQ of 67 was executed [JURIST report] in Texas after the US Supreme Court denied two pleas for delay that same day. Earlier in January an Indiana senator proposed a bill to end the death penalty in the state, and the Washington state legislature proposed bills [JURIST reports] to eliminate the death penalty.

Ferrante Trial Continues

“I’m not so sure that they’ve proven this case,” said attorney Steve Townsend, who is not involved in Ferrante’s trial and is providing legal analysis for WTAE. “This is the sort of case where everyone feels like he did it, but can the commonwealth prove it? And do I think they’ve done enough in this case? That’s a tough call. It really is. I think the defense has an uphill battle coming for them next week, but I’m not sure right now that the jury is convinced.”


Cyanide Poisoning Trial Day 7: Testimony includes husband-wife email, medical analysis

Dr. Robert Ferrante charged with homicide, accused of poisoning Dr. Autumn Klein; Follow #FerranteTrial on Twitter for updates
PITTSBURGH —A man with whom the prosecution says Dr. Robert Ferrante suspected his wife was cheating on him was called as a witness Friday in the seventh day of Ferrante’s homicide trial.

Also on Friday, an email was read in court about a trip that Ferrante’s wife, Dr. Autumn Klein, was scheduled to take.

VIDEO: Watch Marcie Cipriani’s report

In the email, which Ferrante sent to Klein on April 16, 2013 — the day before prosecutors claim he poisoned his wife — he wrote, “You seem to be in such a great mood up until last evening.” It went on to say, “I am obviously missing something here; it seems obvious to me now that you want to go to Boston alone.”

He told her he was sorry for inviting her parents to town and for suggesting the two of them get away together. The email went on to say, “My exuberance of going to Boston together and also having your mom celebrate Mother’s Day with us was perhaps too much. You know me. I think of the fun and not the work behind it.”

Prosecutors pointed out that “Boston” referred to a trip Klein was scheduled to make in May to visit her colleague, Dr. Thomas McElrath, who took the witness stand Friday morning.

Prosecutors say Ferrante was jealous of McElrath and did Internet searches on him.

McElrath told the jurors he and Klein attended a conference together a few months before she died, and that they had been colleagues who worked together for about eight years.

He told the jury he invited Klein and her husband to stay with him at his home, then told defense attorneys that he had never met Ferrante.

Prosecutors then called Jennifer Janssen, assistant chief toxicologist with the Allegheny County Medical Examiner’s Office, who discussed the blood samples that were taken after Klein was admitted to a hospital.

Janssen testified that Klein’s blood tested positive for cyanide and that the ME’s office was not aware of the problems NMS Labs had until days later.

She went on to explain that because of a time lapse from when the blood was drawn to the knowledge of problems with the lab, the decision was made to not send the blood to the Mayo Clinic — a move that the defense says should have been made to get an accurate reading.

Dr. Todd Luckasevic, who conducted Klein’s autopsy, testified that his examination and information from Quest Diagnostics led him to conclude that “Dr. Autumn Marie Klein died as a result of cyanide poisoning” and that her death was a homicide.

Defense attorney Bill Difenderfer aggressively questioned Luckasevic about that on cross-examination, asking, “There are a number of ways human beings can get cyanide in their system, correct?” The doctor agreed. Then Difenderfer asked, “It all looks the same, correct?” The witness agreed once again. Then the defense questioned how cyanide in Klein’s system means that she was murdered, adding, “You don’t know how it was put there, right?” The doctor replied, “Right.”

Marla Priestley, a fingerprint expert for the ME’s Office, testified that Ferrante’s print was on a bottle of cyanide seized from his lab.

When the trial resumes Monday morning, the prosecution will call its final expert witness, who was unable to attend court Friday.

“I’m not so sure that they’ve proven this case,” said attorney Steve Townsend, who is not involved in Ferrante’s trial and is providing legal analysis for WTAE. “This is the sort of case where everyone feels like he did it, but can the commonwealth prove it? And do I think they’ve done enough in this case? That’s a tough call. It really is. I think the defense has an uphill battle coming for them next week, but I’m not sure right now that the jury is convinced.”

Townsend said the Ferrante case has been full of testimony that may be tough for the jury to follow.

“I’m not sure a lot of it they’re comprehending,” he said. “I’m not sure a lot of it I’m comprehending, with the medical and technical jargon that’s going on in there, because I don’t think either side is doing a very good job of explaining it to the jury. What I do believe they’ll come away with is the emotional testimony and the medical examiner testimony, especially since the commonwealth’s witness today saying the cause of death is consistent with cyanide.”

Allegheny County DA

The Allegheny County District Attorney’s office released the follow emails and fingerprint images from those entered in evidence today’s court proceedings against Dr. Robert Ferrante.
Read more:


Local Doctor is Not Guilty – Prescription Drug Conspiracy

Doctor found not guilty of illegally prescribing medication


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


A doctor who was charged with illegally prescribing medication to a staff member out of an East Liberty women’s clinic was found not guilty on all counts Wednesday.

John P. Barrett, 42, of Mt. Lebanon was charged in March with three counts, including selling a controlled substance, illegally dispensing and illegally administering a controlled substance.

According to the criminal complaint, the Allegheny Women’s Center, at 121 N. Highland Ave., which has since closed, was receiving large quantities of Diethylpropion, an obesity medication. There were approximately 20,000 pills unaccounted for over a four-year period from the clinic.

Investigators said they found the medicine was being used by Mark Wagner, a lab tech, who took it to treat anxiety and depression.

But prosecutors said Mr. Wagner was not a patient of Dr. Barrett, the clinic’s director, or Dr. Alton Lawson, and that the man’s psychiatrist was not aware he was taking the medication.

In July, Dr. Lawson pleaded guilty to two count of sale of a controlled substance and entered the court’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program, which will clear his record after nine month of successful probation.

Mr. Wagner pleaded guilty in May to five misdemeanor counts and was sentenced to five years probation. He told investigators that he used the drug but also sold it to a friend to help her lose weight.

Dr. Barrett had a nonjury trial before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Anthony M. Mariani on Wednesday.

Defense attorney Steven C. Townsend called no witnesses, but argued to the court that even though his client’s DEA number was used to order medications for the clinic, that did not mean he was aware Mr. Wagner was using it, abusing it or not an actual patient of Dr. Lawson.

The Civil Case is Still Alive After Ford Found Not Guilty

DA’s decision on retrial of man shot by police overshadows civil lawsuit


Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. will play a key role in whether Leon Ford gets a chance at millions of dollars from a civil lawsuit against Pittsburgh before a federal jury even hears the facts of the case, legal experts including a trusted child custody law firm in Arizona, said on Tuesday.

An Allegheny County jury on Monday acquitted Ford, 21, of Shaler of aggravated assault and deadlocked on five other counts related to a November 2012 traffic stop in Highland Park. He remains charged with recklessly endangering another person, resisting arrest and escape.

Zappala has until Sept. 26 to tell Common Pleas Judge Donald E. Machen whether his office will retry Ford on those charges.

“If the DA decides not to pursue the charges, it’s a win for the defense,” Downtown lawyer Steven Townsend said. “The city might as well open its checkbook.”

If Zappala pursues and Ford is convicted of any of the remaining charges, that could be “detrimental” to the civil case, Townsend said, because “it makes the officers’ actions justified.”

Ford, who is black, was paralyzed on Nov. 11, 2012, when Pittsburgh police Officer David Derbish shot him five times in what the officer said was self-defense. Ford’s attorneys said the three white officers unnecessarily escalated the situation.

Ford will retain at least some of his claims in his federal car accident injury lawyers in McAllen against the city regardless of whether prosecutors pursue the remaining charges against him, including that the officers used excessive force and unlawfully stopped him, Downtown attorney Joel Sansone said.

Ford’s civil case is “very strong,” Sansone said.

Exactly how much a jury could award Ford remains a guess. Local lawyers Mitchell & Hammond covering ch 13 bankruptcies in Oklahoma City estimated a seven-figure pay day. A gag order that remains in the criminal case prevented Ford’s civil lawyer, Monte Rabner, from commenting. Howard McQuillan, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 1, city public safety spokeswoman Sonya Toler and Mike Manko, a spokesman for the district attorney, all declined to comment.

Councilman Ricky Burgess said Ford’s case highlighted the city’s racial divide and a lack of diversity among the rank-and-file officers. It also furthered a “false narrative” that has caused a distrust between the community and police, which leaders are working to mend, Burgess said.

Court settlements and judgments are paid out of the city’s general fund. The city sets aside $1.6 million a year for that, said Tim McNulty, spokesman for Mayor Bill Peduto.

Tim Stevens, chairman of the Black Political Empowerment Project, implored Zappala to dismiss the remaining charges against Ford. “We feel that the fact that Mr. Ford will never walk again is unto itself reason enough to not refile the charges in this unfortunate incident,” he said.

He added that it “will also provide an opportunity for some level of healing within our African-American communities between the community and the police.”

Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412- 391-0927 or

Security Guard, John Carter – Found “Not Guilty”

Guard, John Carter, not guilty in Pittsburgh shooting

Three-day trial ends in mixed views about verdict
By Paula Reed Ward / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A Verona se­cu­rity guard charged with ag­gra­vated as­sault af­ter shoot­ing a man ac­cused of steal­ing from a de­liv­ery truck in Home­wood was found not guilty Wed­nes­day.

John Carter, 54, tes­ti­fied on his own be­half dur­ing the three-day trial be­fore Com­mon Pleas Judge Joseph K. Wil­liams III.

The jury only de­lib­er­ated about 30 min­utes be­fore re­turn­ing its ver­dict.

De­fense at­tor­ney Steven Townsend said his cli­ent should never have been charged.

“I have no idea why they pur­sued a case like this,” he said. “It was clear from state­ments, wit­ness ac­counts and the video — John Carter was de­fend­ing him­self af­ter be­ing robbed.”

But Dis­trict At­tor­ney Ste­phen A. Zap­pala Jr. said if the same cir­cum­stances were pre­sented to him again, charges would again be filed.

Mr. Carter was charged with shoot­ing Edward Brown Jr. on Oct. 2 as he ran away.

Ac­cord­ing to Pitts­burgh po­lice, Brown took a jit­ney to Baker’s Dairy on Ham­il­ton Avenue that day, know­ing a truck for the Tri­an­gle Tobacco & Candy Co. reg­u­larly made de­liv­er­ies.

Brown walked to the back of the truck, tugged on a bun­gee cord at­tached to a con­tainer hold­ing money, grabbed more than $1,100 and ran.

Mr. Carter, who worked on the truck, told po­lice when he was first ques­tioned that he chased Brown, heard some­one scream that there was an­other per­son and then saw Brown stop and reach to­ward his waist­band. That’s when he fired, he said, to de­fend him­self.

But pros­e­cu­tors said a video taken from a Port Au­thor­ity bus did not show Brown “stop­ping and turn­ing around as Mr. Carter re­ported.”

“I think he was de­fend­ing his em­ploy­ment,” Mr. Zap­pala said. “We’re a so­ci­ety of laws, and you can’t shoot some­body who tries to steal from you.”

But Mr. Townsend dis­agreed.

“John Carter’s ac­tions were cer­tainly jus­ti­fied.”

He said his cli­ent is look­ing for­ward to re­gain­ing his per­mit to carry a fire­arm, as well as get­ting his job back as a se­cu­rity guard.

Brown pleaded guilty to theft in May be­fore Judge An­thony M. Mar­i­ani and was sen­tenced to serve two years’ pro­ba­tion and pay res­ti­tu­tion.
Read more:



Finally, Hard Data on How a Fast the Suspct Can Be in the 11 Difference Shooting Scenarios

By: Bill Lewinski, Ph.D.

Shot in the Back

We have always known that generally action beats reaction.  And, we’ve been able to demonstrate this in a variety of civilian and law enforcement situations.  Since the invention of the shot timer, we’ve known how quickly officers can react in shooting situations.  Now, for the first time, we have accurate, sophisticated measurements on how quickly the suspect in the street can actually do what they do in 11 different kinds of shooting scenarios.  Some of you may find the results depressing, for this research proves that in the street, action really does beat reaction.  For others, it will provide a clear explanation for problems, such as why so many suspects get shot in the back.  Readers should find the results of this study truly amazing – the implications for law enforcement training are profound.

Security Guard Appears In Court After Shooting Robbery Suspect


(Photo Courtesy: City of Pittsburgh Bureau of Police)

(Photo Courtesy: City of Pittsburgh Bureau of Police)

Ross GuidottiReporting Ross Guidotti

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – An armed security guard accused of shooting a robbery suspect in Homewood earlier this month was in court for a preliminary hearing today.

John Carter, 53, of Verona man is charged with aggravated assault after shooting a man, who allegedly robbed a delivery truck in Homewood.

“He believes and I believe and I think everyone will believe in the end, that he did the right thing yet he’s in the position where he’s in the box trying to prove his innocence,” defense attorney Steve Townsend said.

On Oct.2, Edward Brown allegedly grabbed a money bag out of a delivery truck at Triangle Candy and Tobacco.

Carter, working for Triangle as a guard, gave chase. He opened fire on Brown, striking the 32-year-old in the abdomen.

“This area where this took place in Homewood, it’s like Afghanistan, it’s Bosnia. Shootings there are almost a daily occurrence,” Townsend said. “Someone’s threatening you with bodily force and you’re in fear of serious bodily injury, you have to do what you have to do to protect yourself and that’s what happened.”

Carter, a 16-year veteran and qualified to carry a firearm, told police Brown turned around and reached for his waist.

Carter thought he had a gun and fired. However, there was no gun.

Carter told police a bystander yelled that Brown had a gun, but videotape showed Brown, who would be charged with robbery, never turned around and never had a gun. Brown survived his injuries.

“I believe that he’s innocent. I don’t believe that he committed a crime and I believe that that will come out in the end. Unfortunately, he’s left in the situation where he’s probably going to have to take this case to trial,” Townsend said.

Carter remains free on bond and continues to work as an armed security guard.