Charges against Ligonier man dropped for gun use in road-rage case
Prosecutors on Friday dropped charges against a psychologist from Ligonier who fired a gun at a motorist during a road-rage incident.
Dr. Charles P. Gallo's lawyer and supporters said, otherwise, they were prepared to use Pennsylvania's expanded "castle doctrine" law to show he did not commit a crime. In the end, Westmoreland County Assistant District Attorney Judy Petrush declined to prosecute Gallo, 63, on attempted homicide and assault charges because the other motorist did not testify.
"Self-defense would have been ultimately asserted as Mr. Gallo's defense," Petrush said. "But without the testimony of the complainant ... we couldn't proceed."
An orderly group of about 50 people from a number of organizations turned out for a preliminary hearing for Gallo, a psychologist who practices in Monroeville. The group spilled out onto the street from the small office of Ligonier District Judge Denise Snyder Thiel.
Gov. Tom Corbett signed legislation in June to strengthen residents' rights to use deadly force in self-defense.
Gallo told police that Patrick James Pirl, 39, of Ligonier began tailgating him as he drove on Route 30 in October. Pirl eventually followed him onto Route 381, where the situation escalated, Gallo said.
It erupted into gunfire when Pirl pulled in front of Gallo, turned around and started heading directly at Gallo's vehicle, according to court documents. Gallo said he pulled out his Glock semi-automatic pistol and fired twice at Pirl with one bullet grazing his shoulder, police said.
"None of Mr. Gallo's actions fell outside the castle doctrine," said his attorney, Harry Smail Jr.
Previously, the law gave someone the right to use deadly force -- without retreating -- against intruders invading a home or business. Outside the home, using lethal force required first taking steps away from an assailant. Now the same standard applies inside and outside the home, wherever a person is legally allowed to be.
Jim Liberto, a member of the state Firearm Owners Against Crime and one of Gallo's supporters, said Gallo was victimized twice: once by Pirl and again by the court system.
"Dr. Gallo should never have been charged," Liberto said.
Gallo said he had called 911 three times and had tried to escape from Pirl eight times before he believed he had to fire his gun.
"You can be sure I will be working with PA legislators to ensure that none of you have to go through what I have gone through," he told supporters outside the judge's office.
States such as Pennsylvania, Colorado and Texas have expanded their laws to give people the right to defend themselves in public places.
Gallo's supporters came from various groups and included incoming elected officials.
"I'm a strong supporter of the right to bear arms and the right to self-defense," said Jonathan Held, sheriff-elect of Westmoreland County. "I'd like to see justice be served and our Constitution upheld."
Thirty-one states have some version of the castle doctrine in place, said John Velleco, an official with Gun Owners of America in Springfield, Va.
In the remaining states, "I can say with confidence it's been discussed among legislators," Velleco said. "In some states it's a tougher row to hoe than others."
Pirl was charged with aggravated assault, driving under the influence, recklessly endangering another person and related charges.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- ‘Doc Hope’ eases into retirement from West Newton veterinary clinic
- Westmoreland County municipalities push to clean up litter, dumps
- Spirit Airlines lifts fortunes of Arnold Palmer Regional Airport
- Traveling amateur organists entertain fellow seniors with oldies music
- Route 217 bridge work about to start in Derry Borough
- Hempfield man dies in single-vehicle accident
- 2 Hempfield Area students charged with sexting
- Murrysville woman apologizes for scholarship fund theft
- Land costs for New Stanton turnpike interchange project reach $4.2M
- Seton Hill student tells how Pa. Gov. Wolf’s tax plan will hurt her
- Hempfield bicyclist who brought rock, knives into court office charged