A judge ruled Wednesday that the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office is not required to pursue private criminal complaints against Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and council members for enacting a package of controversial gun ordinances.
The ruling came a few hours after Anthony Golembiewski, 63, of Lawrenceville appeared in court asking Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Joseph James to force District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. to accept the private criminal complaints. Golembiewski and several city residents attempted to file the complaints against Peduto earlier this year.
The DA’s office has maintained that it can’t accept the complaints unless someone has been charged with violating the gun ordinances, which are on hold pending resolution of several lawsuits filed against the city. James, who also presided over a hearing on the criminal complaints, ordered that the ordinances be halted earlier this year.
Charles Porter, solicitor for Zappala’s office, argued that the DA can’t accept the complaints because the ordinances are not being enforced.
“No one has been charged. No one will be charged. No one can be charged,” he said.
City council in April approved three ordinances banning the use of certain semiautomatic weapons, ammunition and accessories. It included an “extreme risk protection” ordinance, permitting courts to temporarily remove guns from a person deemed to be a public threat and impose penalties on an adult who allows a child to access a gun illegally.
Council members Darlene Harris of Spring Hill, Theresa Kail-Smith of Westwood and Anthony Coghill of Beechview voted against the bills.
Second Amendment advocates have sued the city, alleging the ordinances violate a state law that prohibits cities from regulating firearms.
“(Zappala) should have accepted our criminal complaints on the basis that the mayor and six members of city council broke the state preemption law the day that (Peduto) signed this into law,” Golembiewski said following the hearing. “I know I’d be held accountable if I broke the law.”
Attorney Lane Turturice, who is representing Golembiewski and three other city residents, said his clients are asking Zappala to accept the charges and then make a decision on whether they are warranted.
“We’re just asking the DA’s office to follow the rules, accept the complaints,” he said.
James seemed skeptical.
“You can’t be cited or arrested or whatever because I stayed them, and they can’t be enforced unless by order of court,” the judge said. “What can Mr. Zappala do?”
Turturice said he was disappointed with James’ ruling and he is discussing with his clients whether to appeal.