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Attorney believes video will exonerate councilman in attack

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By Tony LaRussa and Tom Yerace
Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012, 12:56 a.m.
 

A lawyer representing a Cheswick councilman charged with assaulting the fire company president hasn't seen video from a surveillance camera that recorded the Sept. 19 incident, but says he is certain it will prove that his client is innocent and that the wrong man was charged.

Police stand firm, saying they arrested the right man.

Police say a surveillance tape shows Councilman Jonathon Skedel, 57, punched fire department President Joseph Ferrero, 61, when the two encountered each other along Pittsburgh Street.

“Mr. Skedel has been improperly charged with assault,” said attorney Phillip DiLucente, who has been hired along with James Ecker to represent Skedel.

“He was not the aggravator of the incident,” DiLucente said at a news conference on Friday afternoon. “He simply was stating his free speech rights to another person. This person, instead, decided to retaliate and attack Mr. Skedel.”

Springdale police Chief Joe Naviglia said, “I feel that everything was done right. The case was investigated to the best of my ability.”

Naviglia said Bob Heister, Allegheny County assistant district attorney, viewed the video and approved the charges against Skedel.“The evidence is going to stand on its own,” Naviglia said. “That's all I've got to say.”

DiLucente conceded that Skedel made disparaging remarks toward Ferrero but said he did not initiate an assault.

Skedel's comments “might not have been the nicest things in the world, but they were spoken,” DiLucente said.

“Then the alleged victim (Ferrero) is the one who attacks our client,” DiLucente said.

DiLucente claims that Ferrero ran toward Skedel, jumped on his back and knocked him to the ground.

“Mr. Skedel was attacked. He was defending himself,” said DiLucente, adding that his client suffers from a number of medical problems including a brain tumor, a heart condition and back trouble.

Ferrero, responding to DiLucente's remarks, said, “I am confident that the videotape will show how the police made their charges.

“I'm not the one who was charged. I am going to stand by the police report and let the criminal justice system run its due process, and we'll see.

“I haven't seen the videotape myself,” Ferrero said. “I don't need to see it. I know what happened.”

DiLucente said lawyers for Health Star Physical Therapy in Springdale, which he says have the tape, refused a request to allow him or Ecker to view the footage.

But Naviglia said that if Skedel's attorneys want to view the video of the assault, they went to the wrong place.

“He can get it through the district attorney's office,” Naviglia said. “Jimmy Ecker knows what to do.”

“We are completely assured that this tape will exonerate our client,” DiLucente said.

“I'm pretty confident that it won't,” Naviglia said.

Skedel attended the news conference on Friday but was advised by his lawyers not to make any statements.

Tony LaRussa and Tom Yerace are staff writers for Trib Total Media. LaRussa can be reached at (412) 320-7987 or tlarussa@tribweb.com; Yerace can be reached at 724 226-4675 or tyerace@tribweb.com.

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