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Son of Lower Burrell district judge ordered to stand trial in drug case

Paul Peirce
| Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, 5:09 p.m.

A state trooper testified Thursday that police acted on an informant’s tip Aug. 1 that the son of a Westmoreland County district judge would be transporting a large amount of marijuana through Murrysville on Route 22 that evening and officers set up a traffic sting.

Stephen Yakopec III, 28, the son of District Judge Cheryl Peck Yakopec, based in Allegheny Township, drove a 2018 Dodge Ram pickup truck on Route 22 and was pulled over after he twice failed to properly use his turn signal, Trooper Glenn Adams testified.

“He was visibly nervous when I approached his window,” Adams said. “His hands were trembling. I told him I smelled marijuana and he said he had been hanging out with people who smoked and used marijuana.”

Adams said troopers discovered 14 pounds of marijuana, vacuum-sealed in one-pound plastic bags, inside two duffle bags and a large box in the backseat. Adams told Mitchell that the “overwhelming smell” of marijuana gave him probable cause to search the rental truck.

Senior District Judge Herb Mitchell ordered Yakopec to stand trial on charges of manufacturing, possession and intent to deliver a controlled substance, illegal possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Yakopec, who was represented by Pittsburgh attorney Michael J. DeRiso, waived to right to trial on eight other criminal complaints of manufacturing, possession and delivery of a controlled substance, criminal conspiracy and illegal possession of controlled substances related to two searches of residences where Yakopec resided. Another 16 pounds of marijuana that state agents allege is connected to a drug-delivery operation headed by Yakopec were confiscated in those searches.

The charges were the result of a six-month investigation that began in March into an alleged marijuana distribution operation in the Lower Burrell area by the state Attorney General’s Office along with state and local police.

On Oct. 2, Yakopec was arrested a fourth time in Allegheny County after state police pulled over a white Mercedes-Benz in which he was riding in East Deer along Route 28, according to court documents.

Court documents said police found a package containing five bags of marijuana and an OxyContin pill in the passenger seat, and Yakopec had 25 OxyContin pills on him.

DeRiso said the Allegheny County drug possession complaints will be tried separately.

Yakopec, who was accompanied to court Thursday by his father, Lower Burrell attorney Stephen Yakopec Jr., declined comment.

With the most recent allegations occurring while Yakopec was free on $50,000 unsecured bond, Westmoreland County pre-trial services filed a motion asking that Yakopec’s bond be revoked and for him to be placed in the county jail.

Tomm Mutschler, assistant state attorney general, argued in favor of the petition, telling Mitchell that Yakopec had not undergone a drug and alcohol evaluation that was to be completed.

“He’s thumbed his nose at the court so far,” Mutschler said.

DeRiso disagreed.

“The kid needs help. He’s in the process of getting treatment,” DeRiso said.

Stephen Yakopec Jr. also told Mitchell that the family was in the process of possibly enrolling his son in a treatment facility. He also noted that his son is living at the family’s Lower Burrell home.

Mitchell decided to continue Yakopec’s unsecured bond, but added special conditions, including that he contact pre-trial services to be placed on electronic home monitoring and that he be enrolled an a substance abuse treatment program.

Yakopec’s girlfriend, Kacy T. Anderson, 29, also of Lower Burrell, waived her right to a hearing on multiple drug distribution, conspiracy and possession charges. She was represented by Pittsburgh attorney Charles Porter, who declined comment.

Yakopec’s preliminary hearing on drug charges in Allegheny County filed by Harrison Township police is scheduled Oct. 24.

Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, or via Twitter @ppeirce_trib.

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