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Penn Hills gun owner fights new charges

| Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Penn Hills gun collector just beginning probation was told by his probation officer that he had a week to get rid of 165 guns, the man's attorney said on Monday. But an hour later, officers came to confiscate his collection, leading to a new batch of charges against Charles Rullo, 54, his lawyer said.

A criminal complaint says the probation officer told Rullo two weeks before the guns were taken that he was not allowed to have firearms.

Rullo remained in the Allegheny County Jail on $1 million bond after his arrest on Friday. Common Pleas Judge Edward Borkowski is reviewing the bail.

Allegheny County police charged Rullo with 164 counts of being a person who should not possess a firearm, possessing a firearm with an obliterated manufacturer's number and two counts of possessing an offensive weapon.

"My client was going to comply (and get rid of the weapons), but he didn't get a chance," said Michael Foglia, who represents Rullo. "They're blowing this case way out of proportion. I can understand that the guns were loaded, but they were all locked up in his house."

The criminal complaint against Rullo says about half of the guns, seized by probation officers and Penn Hills police, were loaded. Penn Hills police Chief Howard Burton did not return a message seeking comment.

The latest charges follow Rullo's guilty plea in February to misdemeanor counts of possessing an offensive weapon, using an electronic incapacitation device and simple assault. Penn Hills police accused Rullo of using a stun gun on a bar patron during a fight a year earlier. A judge sentenced Rullo to 18 months of probation on Feb. 6 as part of a plea deal.

During an intake interview at the Allegheny County Probation Office on Feb. 17, Officer Terrence Muir met with Rullo and reviewed the rules of his probation, including a prohibition against having firearms at home, according to the latest criminal complaint against Rullo.

But Foglia said Rullo told him the first time he heard he wasn't allowed to have guns was on March 1, when Muir visited his home on Hathaway Court.

Foglia said that after Rullo showed Muir the guns in a locked cabinet in the basement, Muir said he had seven days to get rid of them. Rullo, who has collected guns for about 25 years, planned to call gun dealers he knows but didn't get the chance, Foglia said.

Allegheny County police said one gun had an obliterated serial number and a silencer and had been converted to an automatic weapon, alterations that are prohibited. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is tracing the weapons, along with the Allegheny County Crime Lab.

Allegheny County Adult Probation Department Director Tom McCaffrey declined to comment on Rullo's case but said everyone under supervision is told whether they can possess weapons.

"Most of our work seeing defendants is in the field," McCaffrey said. "They have to be able to go and see these people at their homes in a safe environment, and that's very, very important ... we're not going to supervise somebody with a house full of guns. It's just dangerous."

"We felt he was a danger to the community," county police Superintendent Charles Moffatt said. "When you have somebody who has that many guns, it's not really a technicality, it's the letter of the law. It's right in the crimes code that you can't possess guns."

Rullo's wife, Staci, said her husband has collected guns for years and has a license to carry them. She said he would have made arrangements to get rid of them if he knew he had to.

"It's so convoluted at this point," she said. "It's a disaster."

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