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Surrender firearms to have charges dropped, Plum judge tells Cheswick councilman

| Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, 1:23 p.m.
Eric Felack, Valley News Dispatch
Cheswick Councilman Jonathan Skedel

A Cheswick councilman will have criminal charges against him dismissed provided he meets several conditions, including the surrender of his firearms.

Jonathan Skedel, 57, of Highland Avenue, had been charged with simple assault and harassment stemming from an Oct. 17 incident in Plum.

Skedel, a general contractor, allegedly argued with subcontractor Sean Kerrigan, pulled a pistol and fought with Kerrigan about nails left on a roof. On Wednesday, Plum District Judge Linda Zucco said she'd dismiss the charges provided Skedel would:

• Surrender a pistol used in the incident as well as a shotgun and two hunting rifles to the Allegheny County Sheriff's Department.

• Give up his permit that allows him to carry a concealed gun.

• Complete anger-management counseling.

Zucco gave Skedel 90 days to comply with her ruling, but directed Skedel's' attorney, Philip DiLucente, to contact the sheriff's department regarding the four guns immediately.

Skedel is awaiting trial on charges of simple assault and making false statement from an unrelated incident last year. In that case, Skedel allegedly punched Cheswick Fire Company President Joseph Ferraro in Springdale and lied to police.

Order comes after clash

Zucco's order was made after a verbal clash between Assistant District Attorney Robert Heister and defense attorney James M. Ecker. Ecker and DiLucente represented Skedel in the Springdale case.

On Wednesday, Ecker, DiLucente and Kerrigan said Kerrigan, the subcontractor and alleged victim, wanted to have charges dropped.

Heister, the prosecutor, said that might be possible except that a gun was involved.

The comments came before Kerrigan was called to the witness stand. Ecker said he was representing Kerrigan Wednesday and urged him not to testify.

Heister said he heard Ecker advise Kerrigan to say nothing “and take the Fifth Amendment,” and Ecker replied, “You're a liar.”

Zucco ordered both men to be quiet and expressed her surprise regarding the comments.

Reluctant witness

Eventually, when Kerrigan was called to the witness stand, he said he didn't want to testify against Skedel.Once he began to testify, Kerrigan testified that Skedel was a long-time friend who was having a bad day.

“This was a misunderstanding, and I was the person Mr. Skedel yelled at,” he said. “We have done business together and we will do so again.”“Did it involved a gun? Was Mr. Skedel brandishing a gun?” Heister asked. Kerrigan testified yes.

Victim reads statement

Heister asked him if he wrote and signed a page-and-a-half statement for Plum police the day of the incident.

Kerrigan said yes.

When it was clear Kerrigan didn't want to testify, Heister asked him to read the statement, and Kerrigan read a portion of it.

In the statement, Kerrigan said he approached Skedel in his truck about noon on Oct. 17 to resolve any questions about the roofing contract.

Skedel, who was on a cell phone, finished the call and stepped out of the driver's door. When Skedel did so, he was holding a .380-caliber pistol that he pointed at Kerrigan and started to yell at him.

Kerrigan testified that he grabbed the pistol away from Skedel, but Skedel put him in a head lock, wrestled him to the ground, and wound up on top of the much smaller Kerrigan.

Kerrigan said the pistol was underneath him but he was able to get it and hand it to another person and ask them to call police.

Kerrigan testified he wasn't too concerned that about the pistol because the hammer wasn't cocked.

“I just didn't want anything else to happen,” he testified.

Soon after, Zucco suspended the preliminary hearing and asked the investigating police officer, Skedel, Kerrigan, DiLucente and Heister to speak with her in her office.

The order was announced after they came back into the courtroom about 20 minutes later.

Skedel agrees to plan

Asked by Zucco if he agreed to voluntarily give up the carry permit, guns and will take part in counseling, Skedel said yes.

Heister asked if there are other firearms in the Skedel house and was told that Skedel's wife also has a protection carry permit and handgun.

Zucco said she couldn't do anything about that lawfully owned gun.

Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4711 or cbiedka@tribweb.com.

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