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Allegheny County DA 'satisfied' with pleas in Downtown T station attack

| Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016, 3:48 p.m.
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Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.

A likely prison sentence for one man and probation and community service for three others were “appropriate” plea bargains reached with four of five white men accused of attacking a black man at a Downtown T station, Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said Wednesday.

Zappala's office issued a statement saying he was satisfied with the plea agreements involving Ryan Kyle, David Depretis, Kenneth Gault and Matthew LaPlace — although the victim and judge said they were not.

The attack on Kevin Lockett of the North Side at the Wood Street station was captured on video from surveillance cameras.

Police and prosecutors said Kyle, 22, grabbed Lockett after a Kenny Chesney concert at Heinz Field and threw him onto the light-rail tracks. When Lockett got up, LaPlace, 22, walked off with Lockett's cooler of beer and food just before Kyle began punching Lockett until he lost consciousness.

Police said Kyle used racial slurs during and after the attack. Video of the attack will be played for Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Manning at Kyle's May 16 sentencing. The judge revoked Kyle's bond Tuesday, when the pleas were entered.

Lockett left the courtroom between the first two hearings and later expressed his disgust that all but one of his attackers would go home.

“If five black guys jumped one white guy, nobody would be going home,” Lockett said, adding that he hadn't agreed to the pleas.

But the pleas were not a surprise to him, according to the district attorney.

“As is the case involving any plea offers from this office, the offers were explained in detail to both the arresting officers and Mr. Lockett, and we are satisfied that the dispositions involving these five defendants are appropriate,” Zappala said in his statement.

His office did not make him available to talk about the plea agreements.

Assistant District Attorney Julie Capone told Manning she discussed the pleas with Lockett, though he seemed upset by the outcome.

Capone told the judge there was a “pecking order” among the defendants: Depretis, 21, Gault, 22, and a fifth defendant, Christopher LaPlace, 24, did not actively take part in the attack or the theft of Lockett's cooler.

Depretis, Gault and Matthew LaPlace received probation and community service as part of their pleas.

“Once the court reviews the tape, we fully expect that the most culpable defendant, Ryan Kyle, who was the lone participant in the assault of Mr. Lockett, will face a sentence in the state penitentiary,” Zappala said.

Manning said he would require all five men to jointly pay restitution to Lockett for his medical bills, and that the three perform community service in a predominantly black neighborhood. Kyle, Depretis and Gault are from Baldwin Borough, where Depretis' father is mayor. The LaPlace brothers are from Whitehall.

Christopher LaPlace is scheduled for a hearing Thursday because he had no attorney available Tuesday.

Several high-profile defense attorneys represented the defendants who did go to court — James Wymard, who frequently represents police officers in criminal cases; Robert Del Greco Jr., who defended Steeler Le'Veon Bell on drug possession charges; Al Burke, a former U.S. attorney; and Patrick Thomassey, a former prosecutor whose defense clients have included murder and public corruption suspects.

Matthew Santoni is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-391-0927 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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