Accused Franklin Regional knife attacker Alex Hribal could get plea deal
Guilty plea negotiations with an eye toward resolving attempted murder allegations against a former Franklin Regional High School student charged with attacking 20 classmates and a security guard more than three years ago have ramped up, according to lawyers involved in the case.
Jury selection for the trial of Alex Hribal, 20, is scheduled to begin Nov. 13 in Greensburg. Police said he used two kitchen knives to slash and stab students in the high school hallway before classes April 9, 2014.
Defense attorney Pat Thomassey confirmed Wednesday that talks have intensified with Westmoreland County prosecutors.
“I think there is a good chance it will be resolved before trial,” Thomassey said. “I do want to spare the victims the agony of a trial. It's been a long road.”
Hribal was 16 at the time of his arrest but is being prosecuted as an adult. He is charged with 21 counts each of attempted murder and aggravated assault as well as one weapons offense for having knives on school property.
Several students were seriously injured in the attack.
District Attorney John Peck declined to discuss any formal guilty plea offers but said Wednesday he has engaged in talks with the defense.
“There have been discussions,” Peck said.
Hribal, his lawyer and Peck were scheduled to appear before Common Pleas Court Judge Christopher Feliciani on Oct. 16 for a pretrial conference, but that meeting was canceled due to a scheduling conflict.
Another court date is scheduled for early November as a precursor to the trial. Peck said he expected to learn if Hribal will plead guilty at that time.
“We'll meet in a couple of weeks with the judge,” Peck said.
Hribal's case has lingered for more than three years, first as the defense failed in its attempt to have his criminal case adjudicated in the juvenile court system , a move that would have allowed him to be released from custody upon his 21st birthday.
The defense also tried to have Hribal plead guilty but mentally ill to the charges. Feliciani rejected that attempt , saying it was up to a jury to make a determination as to how mental issues impacted the crime.
Throughout the pretrial proceedings, the defense has maintained Hribal suffered from several mental infirmities such as depression and schizophrenia when he launched the knife rampage.
The prosecution countered with its own psychological evaluation of Hribal and determined that he understood the impact of his actions during the assault.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or email@example.com.