2 held for arraignments in Munhall gun case
Terrick Smith, 21, of Braddock had a small child in his lap and a loaded gun in his waistband when a station wagon in which he was traveling was stopped earlier this month in Munhall, according to testimony from a borough police officer who initiated the traffic stop.
Smith and his co-defendant, Marquese Underwood, 19, of West Mifflin — who, like Smith, was in the back seat of the car allegedly holding a loaded gun in his waist area when police stopped the vehicle along Whitaker Way on Aug. 13 — appeared before Magisterial District Judge Thomas Torkowsky on Wednesday.
The judge held charges of receiving stolen property, carrying a firearm without a license and carrying a loaded weapon against the pair and they remain in jail awaiting formal arraignments on Oct. 14. Smith additionally is charged with persons not to possess a firearm.
Munhall police Officer James Caterino testified that he and a West Mifflin police officer were working a detail for the state Attorney General's Office when they encountered the station wagon and initiated the stop.
In addition to the defendants and the child, there were two other men and two females in the car, Caterino said. Caterino said he recognized Smith.
“I knew Mr. Smith had a warrant for his arrest,” Caterino said.
He said Smith and Underwood told police they had guns at the time of the stop.
Both weapons had been reported as stolen, Caterino said, though Smith's was not listed on the National Crime Information Center website and was determined later to be missing out of Pittsburgh.
Attorney Carl Marcus, who is representing Smith, argued that a charge of receiving stolen property should be dropped because, in his opinion, “the state failed to show” his client “knew or believed the gun was stolen.”
Marcus was appointed by the court to represent Smith because his co-defendant is being represented by the Allegheny County Public Defender's Office. The public defender cannot represent multiple defendants in the same case because of concerns over conflicts of interest.
Repeating Marcus' argument, public defender George Saba said a charge of receiving stolen property should be dropped against his client.
Prosecutor Jonathan Lusty said the defendants should have assumed they were in possession of stolen weapons.
“They should have known,” he said, referring to the defendants, neither of whom is legally permitted to own a gun. Smith is a convicted felon. Underwood is too young to legally buy a gun.
According to the Pennsylvania State Police's website, those 21 or older may apply for a license to carry firearms.
Lusty said, “You can't buy a gun illegally without assuming it's stolen.”
Saba disagreed with that statement but the judge nevertheless held all charges against the two men.
Torkowsky reduced Smith's bail from $10,000 to a non-monetary amount after his attorney argued that Smith will be held on a state Department of Corrections detainer for a probation violation.
The judge kept Underwood's bail amount at $10,000 despite Saba's efforts to get it reduced on a similar argument. Saba said Underwood was wanted on a detainer from Shuman Juvenile Detention Center and would be sent there if he was released from Allegheny County Jail.
The judge said he is concerned there would be nothing to hold Underwood if the juvenile center were to release the 19-year-old suspect.
Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or firstname.lastname@example.org.