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Cheswick councilman hit with 2 more charges

| Tuesday, May 7, 2013, 7:28 a.m.
Eric Felack, Valley News Dispatch
Cheswick Councilman Jonathan Skedel

Cheswick Councilman Jonathan Skedel is facing two new charges for allegedly pointing a pistol at a man in Plum in October.

This time, a May 1 affidavit charges Skedel, 58, of Highland Avenue with recklessly endangering another person and posing a physical menace. In addition, simple assault and harassment charges were refiled.

The case involves an Oct. 17 incident in which police allege Skedel, who is a general contractor, got into an argument and pointed a .380-caliber pistol at subcontractor Sean Kerrigan of Irwin. The new affidavit includes for the first time the name of Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala, Jr., making the county chief prosecutor's support for the charges clear.

Last month, the district attorney's office asked police to withdraw charges.

That's because prosecutors disagreed with a proposal from District Judge Linda Zucco in January to resolve the case without charges if Skedel, within 90 days:

• Surrendered all of his guns — two hunting rifles, a shotgun and pistol.

• Gave up a permit to carry a concealed handgun.

• Completed anger management classes.

Defense attorney Philip DiLucente said Skedel complied with the three conditions, and Zucco scheduled a hearing for April 24 to dismiss the charges.

But the district attorney's office withdrew charges in mid-April before the two charges could be dropped.

Zappala spokesman Mike Manko told the Valley News Dispatch in mid-April that the DA's office “wasn't part” of the proposal and disagreed with it.

At Skedel's preliminary hearing in January, Assistant District Attorney Robert Heister was questioning Kerrigan, the alleged victim, about the incident, when Kerrigan said he wanted to have charges dropped. He dismissed the incident as Skedel, whom Kerrigan called a friend, “having a bad day.”

Heister had Kerrigan read his signed statement to police describing how Skedel pulled the pistol and how Kerrigan took it away from him.

Than's when Zucco suspended the preliminary hearing and called for a closed-door meeting with Skedel's defense attorney and the prosecutor to discuss how to resolve a case in which the alleged victim said he didn't want to testify.After about 20 minutes, Zucco returned to the courtroom and issued her decree.

Zappala is “adding some heft” to the affidavit by adding his name to the criminal complaint, said legal expert Wes Oliver, who teaches at the School of Law at Duquesne University.

Adding Zappala's name is more than the DA's office circling its wagons, Oliver said.Although it isn't particularly unusual for charges to be withdrawn at the district judge's level, adding the district attorney's name to the criminal complaint is unusual in Allegheny County, according to Oliver.

“Zappala wants the district judge to know that this is his entire office's position, not just that of one assistant district attorney,” Oliver said, “and Zappala is saying, ‘I stand by this.' ”

DiLucente, the defense attorney, said he intends to raise a vigorous defense and hopes the case can be worked out without going to court.

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

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