Texan claims self-defense in slashings at Connellsville bar

| Friday, March 8, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A Texas man was defending himself from an angry crowd when he stabbed two people during a bar fight in Fayette County, according to his attorney.

Marcus Claude Moreau, 41, a pipeline welder from Channelview who was in Fayette County to work in the gas industry, is charged with three counts of aggravated assault and one count of simple assault for the incident last March 10 in Riser's Pub in Connellsville Township. His trial began Thursday before Judge Nancy Vernon.

Moreau's attorney, Brent Peck of Uniontown, told jurors that Moreau, who is black, was in the bar with a Hispanic couple when they became involved in a disagreement with white patrons over a stray dart.

“This almost sounds like a bad joke,” Peck said. “A black guy and a Mexican walk into a bar in Connellsville. Unfortunately, there is no punch line.”

The fight began over a dart that landed under a table where Moreau and the Hispanic couple were seated, according to a Connellsville man who was in the bar that night. Michael Andrew Schmidt testified the Hispanic male would not let Schmidt retrieve the dart, so he moved a chair, grabbed the dart and walked away.

“Next thing you know, I wake up in a puddle of blood,” Schmidt testified. William Sirianni of Connellsville testified the Hispanic man punched Schmidt in the nose, knocking him unconscious.

Frank Hart of Connellsville testified he was drinking beer at the bar when he saw Schmidt on the floor. He said he verbally confronted the Hispanic man after another patron pointed the man out as the aggressor.

Hart said the Hispanic male “bum rushed” him, so he tried to tackle the man but ended up on the floor, on all fours. He said other patrons kicked and shoved at him as he was on the floor.

Hart did not notice he had been stabbed until he stood up and tried to walk, he told jurors.

Bartender Tanya Calhoun of Connellsville testified she heard a loud thump, turned and saw Schmidt “out cold” on the floor. She testified she then saw a man punching Hart, so she grabbed the man's arm to try to stop him.

She said she and several others were thrown to the floor. She did not notice her hand had been slashed, she testified, until she had the disc jockey turn on the lights.

“I seen blood dripping off my arm,” Calhoun testified. “I looked at my right hand, and I thought my finger was cut off.”

Sirianni testified he tried to stop Moreau and the Hispanic man from leaving because police had been called, but the two left in a truck. He said other patrons followed the men outside and were striking at the vehicle in an attempt to stop them.

Calhoun was treated in Highlands Hospital in Connellsville and later had surgery on her hand. Hart was taken by medical helicopter to UPMC Presbyterian in Pittsburgh, where he was hospitalized for one day.

Trooper James Pierce testified he identified Moreau as one of the men because he left a credit card with the bartender to begin a tab when he first entered the bar.

Assistant District Attorney Doug Sepic showed jurors footage of the fight taken from video surveillance cameras. Assistant District Attorney Meghann Mikluscak said the video shows Moreau swinging at Hart in a stabbing motion.

Testimony is to resume Friday morning. Moreau is free on $100,000 bail.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com

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