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Hannibal Lecter picture sent to judge puts Monessen man on track for trial

Renatta Signorini
| Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017, 3:42 p.m.
Gregg Andrew Tchirkow
Gregg Andrew Tchirkow
A letter that Gregg Tchirkow, 38, allegedly sent to a Westmoreland County judge. The letter was part of evidence submitted at his preliminary hearing on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017.
A letter that Gregg Tchirkow, 38, allegedly sent to a Westmoreland County judge. The letter was part of evidence submitted at his preliminary hearing on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017.
A letter that Gregg Tchirkow, 38, allegedly sent to a Westmoreland County judge. The letter was part of evidence submitted at his preliminary hearing on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017.
A letter that Gregg Tchirkow, 38, allegedly sent to a Westmoreland County judge. The letter was part of evidence submitted at his preliminary hearing on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017.

A Monessen man accused of sending a picture of fictitious cannibal Hannibal Lecter to a Westmoreland County judge said the letter was a “cry for help” as he was preparing to be released from jail on an unrelated case.

“My point was that I needed” psychiatric and transition help when “going from the state prison to the street,” argued Gregg Andrew Tchirkow, 38, during his two-hour preliminary hearing Thursday. “Yes, it was an immature cry to help.”

Senior District Judge James Falcon ruled that prosecutors presented enough evidence to support retaliation, stalking and terroristic threats charges in connection with the picture and ordered Tchirkow to stand trial. Prosecutors entered into evidence numerous exhibits showing communications between Tchirkow and Judge Meagan Bilik-Defazio after she sentenced him in a 2014 case in connection with a marijuana growing operation at his home.

A letter Tchirkow admitted sending to the judge from state prison on July 18 consisted of three handwritten pages. “Metamorphosis” was written on the first page. The second page had “pre-prison” written on it with a picture of two men in a boat with “S.S. Oblivious” written beneath.

On the final page was a picture of Hannibal Lecter in his jail cell and the words “post-prison,” police said. Lecter is a character in suspense novels and movies who was a forensic psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer.

“Judge Bilik-Defazio was upset,” testified county Detective James Williams. “She was afraid, and she related to me that her staff, when they opened the envelope, they were upset and afraid.”

Tchirkow, who represented himself during the hearing, had several manila envelopes and legal pads spread out before him and referenced rules of procedure in making motions during the hearing. He called the charges against him “ridiculously frivolous” and questioned why the judge didn't testify.

He argued that his letter was not threatening, but satirical, and depicted the actor Sir Anthony Hopkins or “some guy, some random guy in a cell reading the medical marijuana act.”

“First of all, I'd like to subpoena Sir Anthony Hopkins,” Tchirkow said. “Did you put the motion in the basket?”

Falcon several times explained to Tchirkow rules for a preliminary hearing, during which prosecutors have a low burden of proof.

“You ask the questions of the officer; you don't ask the court questions,” Falcon said. “I've been very lenient. ... You're going to follow the rules to a T from this point on.”

After Tchirkow indicated he needed psychiatric help when he was released from prison, Assistant District Attorney Allen Powanda expressed concern about the defendant's ability to understand the proceedings. Falcon said Tchirkow “has been very capable in his representation of himself today.”

Tchirkow was sentenced in June 2015 to 18 to 36 months in a state prison followed by a year of probation. He and his brother were charged with having a marijuana growing operation at their home. Court records indicate Bilik-DeFazio issued a detainer on Tchirkow in March after he refused to sign papers that would permit his release on probation.

All Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court judges have been recused from that case.

Tchirkow is being held in the Westmoreland County Prison on $25,000 on the retaliation case. He claimed he wasn't given an opportunity to present evidence during Thursday's hearing. He promised a trial, not a guilty plea, would be in his future.

“I knew that I was doomed from the beginning because it involved a judge,” Tchirkow said.

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-837-5374, rsignorini@tribweb.com or via Twitter @byrenatta.

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