Cheswick councilman's assault trial begins
Two Cheswick officials told an Allegheny County jury on Monday that their altercation in the parking lot of Health Star Physical Therapy in Springdale was self-defense.
Councilman Jonathan Skedel, 58, admitted to punching Joe Ferrero, president of the Cheswick Volunteer Fire Department, about 9:45 a.m. on Sept. 19 along Pittsburgh Street. But he said he only did so to keep Ferrero from attacking him again.
“It happened in an instant,” Skedel told the jury of six men and six women. “I only hit him once. ... It was instinct.”
Ferrero, 62, of Cheswick said he was leaving the rehabilitation clinic when Skedel approached him, insulted him and made a derogatory comment about his wife.
Ferrero said he “never laid a finger” on Skedel, but quickly walked up to him and asked why he was hurling such slurs.
That's when Ferrero said Skedel knocked him to the ground, waited for him to get up and slugged him in the face.
“I didn't see it coming,” Ferrero said. “I had no chance to defend myself.”
Springdale police charged Skedel with simple assault and making a false statement to police.
His trial began Monday before Allegheny County Judge Kathleen A. Durkin. Closing arguments were scheduled to begin Tuesday morning.
A surveillance video of the clinic's parking lot shows Skedel walking his dog along Pittsburgh Street and Ferrero leaving the clinic and walking to his car.
The video shows both men standing toe-to-toe and about to continue on with their day until Ferrero runs up to Skedel, tugs at his shirt and causes him to fall to a knee.
The video shows Skedel shoving Ferrero, knocking him to the ground, and punching him in the face as he tried to get up.
The video shows the altercation lasted 21 seconds.
Assistant District Attorney Albert Veverka asked Skedel if he thought Ferrero was a threat when he was lying on the ground.
“Yes,” Skedel said. “I didn't want him to attack me again.”
Skedel's attorney, Phil DiLucente, said Skedel wasn't looking for trouble. Skedel had a doctor's appointment in Philadelphia the next day and was leaving that afternoon.
“There's no doubt my client punched the victim,” DiLucente said. “But if that's not justified, I don't know what is.”
Ferrero said he was minding his own business.
“He's bigger than I am, and I didn't want to fight,” he said.
Skedel said the two have had a rocky relationship since February 2012 when he and three other members of Cheswick Council voted against buying the department a $380,000 fire truck.
Skedel also is awaiting a preliminary hearing on charges of simple assault and harassment over an incident in Plum. In that case, Skedel allegedly got into a dispute with several subcontractors and is accused of brandishing a handgun.
That hearing before District Judge Linda Zucco is scheduled for April 24.
Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or firstname.lastname@example.org.