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Man pleads not guilty to assault

| Thursday, June 22, 2006

A road rage incident near a Fayette County shopping complex in June was instigated by a racial slur, according to testimony presented Wednesday in district court.

Robert Gregory Wilson, 26, of McClellandtown, pleaded not guilty to accusations that he assaulted a Uniontown couple at 3 p.m. June 2 on Matthew Drive, near the Wal-Mart and Kmart stores in South Union Township.

Wilson is accused of beating the couple and firing a .25-caliber automatic pistol, according to testimony before District Judge Joseph George, of Uniontown. Much of the incident was recorded on surveillance cameras at Parkvale Bank and the Kmart and Lowes stores.

State police said Wilson assaulted Dewey W. Vaught, 33, and Lynn Vaught, no age provided, both of Hopwood, after words were exchanged at a stop sign on Work Drive -- a side entrance off Route 21 to the Kmart parking lot.

Dorothy Raye Virgili, 20, of Carmichaels, was driving a Chevrolet Malibu with Wilson in the passenger seat, according to testimony. As the pair approached the rear of a Chevrolet Silverado truck operated by Dewey Vaught, Virgili allegedly honked her horn.

In the car with Dewey Vaught and Lynn Vaught were their son, 15, their daughter, 17, and their daughter's 17-year-old boyfriend.

Dewey Vaught testified that he made a derogatory remark in response to Virgili's horn; and that when he drove away from the stop sign, the Malibu pulled alongside his vehicle, and Wilson, with his body protruding from the vehicle, yelled back.

Lynn Vaught, who is white, testified that Wilson said, "You fat (expletive)," and she responded with profanity and a racial slur against Wilson, who is black.

"I was just worried about going on down to mind my business," Dewey Vaught said.

Wilson became enraged about the racial slur and ordered Virgili to stop the Malibu, according to a statement Virgili provided to police. The pair switched places and Wilson drove across the Kmart parking lot to the Silverado on Matthew Drive near Wal-Mart.

The pair exited the Malibu and Virgili fled on foot toward Wal-Mart as Wilson began punching Dewey Vaught, who still was inside the truck, the Vaughts testified. Lynn Vaught got out of the vehicle and walked toward Wilson, who knocked her unconscious with his fist, according to testimony.

"I got to the passenger side (headlight) and he hit me," Lynn Vaught said. "That's all I remember."

As Lynn Vaught lay motionless on the street, Dewey Vaught and his daughter's boyfriend fought with Wilson.

"We were more or less tangled up with each other," Dewey Vaught said. "At the time, I was trying to hurt him the way he did my wife."

During the scuffle, Wilson pulled a "silver object" from the Malibu, Dewey Vaught testified. When he realized the object was a pistol, Dewey Vaught grabbed Wilson's arm and the gun discharged "inches" away from him and his daughter's boyfriend.

During this time, the Vaught children were tending to their mother, who still was unconscious, Dewey Vaught testified.

After the pistol fired, Dewey Vaught said he let go of Wilson and backed away, and Wilson fled.

State Trooper Charles Morrison testified that police found a spent shell for a .25-caliber automatic pistol at the scene.

He said Wilson was arrested about a week after the incident, when police traced the Malibu to Virgili and then received an anonymous tip to find Wilson. The gun has not been recovered.

Wilson is charged with two counts each of aggravated assault and simple assault, five counts of reckless endangerment and two counts of harassment.

He also is charged with two felony firearms violations for carrying a weapon without a license. Wilson has a past conviction on drug distribution charges, according to Morrison, and as a felon is not allowed to possess a firearm.

George held all of the charges for trial, despite defense attorney Dave Kaiser's move to dismiss the aggravated assault charges and three counts of reckless endangerment.

Kaiser said that Wilson did not point the gun at anyone and that the fight between him and Dewey and Lynn Vaught did not call for aggravated assault charges. He also argued that Wilson did not recklessly endanger anyone but Dewey Vaught and his daughter's boyfriend, and asked the court to strike the other three counts.

District Attorney Nancy Vernon defended the charges, saying Wilson didn't get an opportunity to point the pistol because Dewey Vaught intervened, and "fortunately the gun fired into the ground."

She said Wilson endangered everyone at the crowded intersection, not just the Vaught family. The defense did not present evidence or call witnesses.

Arraignment in Fayette County Court was set for 9:30 a.m. July 20. Wilson remains free on bond.

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