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Fayette man's lawyer wants to supress shotgun, police statements in shooting incident over late-night deer spotting

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Friday, April 5, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A Fayette County man accused of shooting a 17-year-old girl who was spotting deer late at night with her family wants prosecutors barred from using his shotgun and his statements to police as trial evidence.

Jeremy J. Pritts, 35, of 177 Foxburg Road, Normalville, is charged by state police at Uniontown with aggravated assault, simple assault and reckless endangerment in connection with the shooting on Nov. 11.

Police said the girl was sitting in the back of her parents' pickup on Foxburg Road at 10:40 p.m. when she “saw a flash from a porch and was struck with pellets from shotgun fire.”

The girl was treated in a Pittsburgh hospital for shotgun-pellet wounds in her face, chest, abdomen and arms, police said.

Her parents were spotting deer when the teen was shot, police said.

In a motion to suppress, Pritts' attorney, Michael Waltman of Pittsburgh, wants his client's shotgun and statements to police excluded from trial.

Waltman contends that when troopers questioned Pritts at his house the next morning, Pritts was unaware he had the right to refuse to speak with them.

According to Waltman, uniformed troopers “with badges and service revolvers visible” went to Pritts' residence at 11 a.m. on Nov. 12 and “directed him to exit the house to speak with them.”

Pritts complied because he believed he was “in custody” and “was led to believe that he was not free to decline the officers' request or otherwise terminate the encounter,” according to Waltman.

Pritts told the troopers he had fired one shot in the direction of the pickup truck, and he gave them the shotgun “that he allegedly used,” Waltman said in the motion. Pritts was then arrested, according to the motion.

Although Pritts was advised of his Miranda rights after he was arrested and before he gave a written statement, Waltman wants that statement thrown out because it “is a product of the poisonous tree.”

Waltman contends police used the “illegally obtained” verbal statement to secure the subsequent incriminating written statement.

The shotgun, Waltman contends, was obtained without a warrant and is another product of the “illegally obtained” verbal statement.

A hearing date on the motion to suppress has not yet been scheduled. Pritts is free on $10,000 unsecured bond.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media.

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