Charges dismissed against former Jeannette man accused of interfering with firefighters
Westmoreland County prosecutors Monday dismissed criminal charges against a former Jeannette man accused of interfering with firefighters as they attempted to extinguish a blaze at his home last year.
Keith Cerqueira, 59, now of Trafford, pleaded no contest to a lesser charge, a summary count of disorderly conduct, and was fined $300. In return, prosecutors dropped misdemeanor counts of interfering with emergency workers and institutional vandalism.
Police said Cerqueira attempted to enter the Division Street duplex Aug. 20, 2018 as firefighters worked for more than seven hours to put out the blaze that started in the basement of the building and moved into the home’s attic. Authorities also accused Cerqueira of destroying a toilet in a holding cell at the Jeannette police station after his arrest.
In court Monday, Cerqueira defended his actions.
“The cops slapped the cuffs on me. I was upset everything I own is gone. I don’t even have pictures of my missus,” Cerqueira said.
Following a hearing last year, Cerqueira explained he had lived on Division Street for more than 15 years and many of his possessions were still inside the burning home, including furniture, a safe and his wife’s ashes. He had been moving items out slowly after city officials told him he couldn’t live there anymore, he said.
Assistant District Attorney Jim Hopson said the more serious charges against Cerqueira were dismissed after he paid $300 in restitution to the Jeannette police department for the broken toilet.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, [email protected] or via Twitter .