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New Eagle man gets jail for hitting crossing guard

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Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A Washington County man was sentenced on Friday to serve six to 23 months in prison for striking a Fayette County school crossing guard with his car.

A jury found Robert E. Welch, 34, of 160 First Ave., New Eagle, guilty of simple assault and reckless endangerment. The jury acquitted him of aggravated assault.

Since that assault in 2008, Welch has been charged with other criminal offenses in Washington and Westmoreland counties.

Crossing guard Edgar Jones, 65, of Washington Township testified on Monday that he was working in front of Marion Elementary School in the township on Jan. 3, 2008, when he saw a Pontiac Fiero speeding toward him. Jones testified that he was holding up a stop sign so a bus could leave the school grounds when he was struck.

Jones said he was flown to a Pittsburgh hospital, where he was treated for fractured ribs and received 36 stitches in his forehead and 16 in his knee. He did not return to the crossing guard job he had held for two years.

Welch testified that the brakes on his 1986 Fiero had been recently replaced and they malfunctioned as he entered the school zone.

He testified that he did not see Jones and thought he had hit the rear of the bus. He said he was able to stop the car after pumping the brakes continuously. He said he stopped, then drove back to the scene to speak with police.

On Friday, Judge Steve Leskinen noted that prior to 2008 Welch had no criminal record.

Since the accident, Welch has submitted guilty pleas in Westmoreland and Washington counties to charges including retail theft, burglary and use/possession of drug paraphernalia.

His sentences included terms of incarceration and probation in those counties.

A bench warrant was issued as a result of his failure to appear for a pretrial conference in October 2010. Welch has been lodged in the Fayette County Prison since Oct. 31.

He claimed he was unaware of the scheduled court appearance.

“You were in front of me twice in July 2010. We made sure you had counsel. You were told about the pretrial conference,” Leskinen said.

The judge sentenced Welch for the simple assault, with no further penalty on the reckless endangerment conviction.

The sentence is concurrent with any remaining time Welch is to serve in Westmoreland and Washington counties, Leskinen said.

Upon parole, the judge said, Welch is to have no contact with Jones.

Mary Pickels is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media.

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