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Cheswick Councilman Skedel held for trial on assault charge

| Monday, Nov. 19, 2012, 12:36 p.m.
Eric Felack, Valley News Dispatch
Cheswick Councilman Jonathan Skedel, center, confers with his legal team of James Ecker, left, and Phillip DiLucente before his preliminary hearing at Judge David Sosovicka's office in Harmar on Monday, Nov. 19, 2012. Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Eric Felack, Valley News Dispatch
Cheswick Volunteer Fire Co. President Joe Ferrero, who borough Councilman Jonathan Skedel is accused of assaulting, outside Judge David Sosovicka's office in Harmar on Monday, Nov. 19, 2012. Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Eric Felack, Valley News Dispatch
Cheswick Councilman Jonathan Skedel

Cheswick Councilman Jonathan Skedel will face trial on charges he punched the borough's fire company president in Springdale last month.

Harmar District Justice David Sosovicka ordered Skedel held for court following a preliminary hearing Monday.

Skedel, 57, of Highland Avenue, Cheswick, is charged with simple assault and making a false statement to police investigating the assault.

Police allege Skedel was walking his dog along Pittsburgh Street in Springdale about 9:45 a.m. Sept. 19 when he encountered fire department President Joseph Ferrero, 61, coming out of Health Star Physical Therapy.

The men exchanged words and Skedel punched Ferrero several times, police said.

During the hearing, Ferrero said that as a result of the altercation, he suffered three dislocated teeth and a concussion.

“I blacked out when I fell to the ground,” he said at the hearing.

A video tape of the skirmish was played during the hearing with Skedel's attorneys, James Ecker and Phillip DiLucente, disagreeing with Allegheny County Assistant District Attorney Bob Heister on whether Ferrero assaulted Skedel first.

An Allegheny County video forensics expert extracted the footage from a Health Star surveillance camera, according to Springdale police Chief Joe Naviglia.

Although a final determination was not made at the preliminary hearing, Skedel's attorneys took issue with how the altercation began.

According to police and Ferrero, the incident began when he and Skedel started to argue about whether Cheswick would purchase a fire truck.

They have been involved in a dispute over funds from a borough bond issue. Council, in 2011, planned to use the money to purchase a fire truck but, after taking office this year, Skedel and his supporters withdrew their support for the plan.

According to Ferrero's testimony on Monday, Skedel said during their argument, “why don't we settle this now and find a field? Just you and me.”

The argument escalated with Skedel allegedly using profanity and making insulting comments about Ferrero's wife.

Then Ferrero walked up to Skedel and allegedly touched him either on the shoulder or pulled at his shirt, according to Skedel's attorneys.

During the hearing, Ferrero said he didn't touch Skedel.

Ferrero said he turned and saw Skedel's fist coming at his mouth.

The assault felled Ferrero, who said he remembers yelling for police.

But, according to Ecker, it was Skedel who contacted police.

Naviglia said Monday that, when he arrived on the scene, Ferrero was on his knees in the parking lot, yelling.

Naviglia called for backup and medical assistance. Ferrero declined the assistance and headed for his dentist's office.

Skedel allegedly told Naviglia that Ferrero started the fight by jumping on his back.

But that alleged assault is not on the video tape shown in district court on Monday.

After viewing the video footage earlier, Heister approved the charges against Skedel for making false statements to police.

Skedel, a contractor, also is awaiting a 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.

His hearing for that incident is scheduled for Jan. 16 before District Judge Linda Zucco.

Skedel remains free on a recognizance bond pending trial on the assault charge.

Mary Ann Thomas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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