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Judge: Ameris to have 4 trials in Post-related cases

| Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, 12:21 a.m.
James 'Lutzo' Ameris III of Lower Burrell

A New Kensington man's admission to federal agents about illegally having guns won't be used in his upcoming trial in Westmoreland County Court.

County Judge John Blahovec also ruled late last month that James Anthony “Lutzo” Ameris III, 54, formerly of Fairview Drive, will have four trials instead of one, as had been scheduled.

While Blahovec approved two of the pre-trial motions, he rejected two other defense attorney requests.

First, Blahovec refused to reduce bond for Ameris, who remains in the county jail in lieu of $230,000 bond pending trial.

Second, the judge refused to throw out evidence that state police say they found inside the Fairview Drive house.

Three people are facing trial later this year for allegedly helping to hide Charlie Post after an Oct. 2, 2011 shooting — 10 days before Post fatally shot Lower Burrell police Officer Derek Kotecki.

Ameris was the man who drove Post to the Dairy Queen along Greensburg Road minutes before police arrived. Ameris went inside the restaurant, and Kotecki was shot to death in the parking lot while trying to arrest Post, 33, of Lower Burrell.

Post, in turn, died moments later by shooting himself just as he was shot by police.

Police and federal agents investigated later to see how Post got the gun.

In March 2012, after being assured by a federal attorney that he wouldn't face federal gun charges, Ameris and his attorney talked with federal agents about where he obtained several guns.

A Westmoreland County detective was present. After an investigation, the county detective charged Ameris on state charges.

Defense attorney Duke George has argued that the immunity also applied to the state charges.Ameris told agents that he didn't give the cop-killer gun to Post, but that he did have another handgun.

Ameris has a criminal record and cannot legally own firearms.

In his order, Blahovec ruled that Ameris' initial attorney, who was not George, would not have allowed Ameris to talk about the gun if he faced a state charge.

Assistant District Attorney Leo J. Ciaramitaro said the prosecution respects the court ruling.

He said there are witnesses who can testify about the alleged confession that the judge suppressed.

But George countered that “we will argue that the witnesses would be ‘fruits of the poison tree' and not usable.”

Trials separated

The judge ordered separate trials because scheduling only one would prejudice Ameris.

In two of the cases, Ameris is accused of having the .40-caliber pistol before Post used it; illegal possession of another gun.

He also is accused of having yet another gun and drugs inside the Fairview Drive house.

The other charges involve victim intimidation and attempting to get a witness to give false or misleading statement against Ameris.

Ameris is accused of intimidating Nevin Lawson, 43, of Shearsburg Road, Allegheny Township.

He is one of three men who faced charges involving the gun Post used to kill Kotecki.

Lawson has waived to court a charge of making a false written statement and a gun charge. The case was continued in November and wasn't rescheduled as of Tuesday, Lawson's attorney confirmed.

In the intimidation case, Ameris allegedly tried to get Lawson to change his story that Ameris got the cop-killer gun from him.

Ameris' attorney denies that.Two other men have been tried and sentenced for illegal gun possession and transfer or sale of the pistol.

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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