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Charleroi man defends himself in district court, faces 2 trials

| Friday, Aug. 8, 2014, 12:36 a.m.
Curtis Pritchett is escorted from MDJ Larry Hopkins' office in Charleroi on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014.
Jeremy Sellew | For The Valley Independent
Curtis Pritchett is escorted from MDJ Larry Hopkins' office in Charleroi on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014.

A Charleroi man accused of multiple escape attempts and wild attacks on police was twice ordered to stand trial after representing himself in district court Thursday.

Curtis Pritchett, 25, of 429 McKean Ave., underwent two hearings before Magisterial District Judge Larry Hopkins in Charleroi for alleged June 11 incidents.

Hopkins refused to postpone the cases after allowing four continuances since June.

“I granted the original continuance so (Pritchett) could get a private attorney, which (he) never did,” Hopkins said. “I'm not doing it again.”

After the hearings, Hopkins gave Pritchett two applications for a public defender.

In the course of the proceedings, a man identified only as Pritchett's “brother” apparently tested Hopkins' patience.

At one point, Hopkins threatened to have the “brother” removed from the courtroom for trying to relay questions to Pritchett to ask police.

During the hearing, the “brother” made numerous comments about Pritchett being “railroaded.”

In the first hearing, Washington County Assistant District Attorney Michael Fagella questioned Charleroi Regional police Officer Mike Carcella about the incident.

Pritchett did not ask any questions of Carcella and did not call any witnesses.

In the second hearing, Fagella questioned K-9 Officer Bill Gardner.

Pritchett neither called nor questioned witnesses, but attempted to ask about a purported video that revealed him being assaulted by an unnamed borough employee.

Hopkins stopped Pritchett, claiming the subject was not part of the second case.

Round 1

In the first case, Pritchett faces charges of simple assault, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, escape, aggravated assault and terroristic threats.

In that incident, Carcella saw Pritchett and Morgan Wallace, 20, of 51 Boyka Drive, Finleyville, involved in a clash at the TCBY/Subway restaurant, according to a criminal complaint.

Police said Pritchett and Wallace resisted arrest.

As Wallace was taken to the ground and handcuffed, Pritchett took off running down McKean Avenue, police said. Bystanders Ben Bujanowski, Gregg Doerfler and Sam Kopach apprehended Pritchett, police said.

As Carcella and Lt. Mike Polinski attempted to control Pritchett, the suspect tried to escape, police said.

With help from bystanders, police handcuffed Pritchett, who refused to get into a police car and kicked Polinski in the face and chest, a criminal complaint states.

Carcella ultimately had to employ pepper spray to control Pritchett, police said.

At the police station, Pritchett and Wallace required medical treatment.

While shackled to a bench, Pritchett tried several times to escape and threatened to have Polinski's family killed, the complaint said.

Pritchett also tried to escape while using a rest room, police said.

Round 2

In the second hearing, Pritchett was ordered to stand trial on charges of taunting a police animal, aggravated assault and resisting arrest.

Gardner testified that on June 11, he heard commotion coming from the borough garage where police sometimes park when transporting handcuffed suspects.

After Pritchett had been arraigned for the previous incident, police attempted to place Pritchett into a vehicle near the garage for transport to the Washington County Correctional Facility.

In the process, Pritchett managed to grab a baseball bat, police said.

“It's the borough garage, so there's all kinds of things lying around in there,” Gardner testified.

“He was cuffed in the front with a belt on that he had slid up his chest, and he was swinging (the bat) around. So I released the dog, who grabbed him on the back of the leg and took him to the ground.”

Soon after, Pritchett grabbed a parking meter and threw it, narrowly missing Polinski's face and hitting Carcella in the shoulder, according to the complaint.

K-9 officer Rex bit Pritchett's right thigh as the suspect attempted to fend off the dog.

“I don't know exactly what he was trying to do,” Gardner said. “First he was grabbing (Rex) by the snout and pulling his jaws apart, then he was trying to choke the dog.”

Officers finally subdued Pritchett and took him to jail.

Since his arrest, Pritchett has been held in the county lockup in lieu of a total of $500,000 bond in the two cases.

Wallace waives

Wallace, charged with simple assault, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, waived her right to a preliminary hearing July 24.

Jeremy Sellew is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-684-2667.

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