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Sen. Regola asks dismissal of gun charge

Rich Cholodofsky
| Sunday, June 17, 2012, 2:01 a.m.

The attorneys for state Sen. Robert Regola claim a gun charge filed against him should be dismissed because his teen-age son had a constitutional right to possess a gun to defend himself while his family was out of town.

At issue is an allegation that Regola allowed a juvenile to have access to a gun. Regola was charged after the death of his 14-year-old neighbor, Louis Farrell, who was shot in the head with a gun owned by the senator.

Robert "Bobby" Regola, then 16, was at home alone while his family was in Harrisburg. The teen contended he discovered the gun was missing from the Regola home in Hempfield hours before Louis Farrell's body was discovered by his father on the morning of July 22, 2006, in the woods behind the Farrell home.

Westmoreland County Coroner Kenneth Bacha ruled the boy's death a suicide. Farrell's family disputes the ruling.

In court documents filed Wednesday, Regola's defense team contends that the felony gun charge against the senator should be dismissed because it is unconstitutional.

"It simply cannot be constitutional (for) a citizen (of) this commonwealth to lack the ability to possess a firearm for self protection purposes in his own home. To the extent that Sen. Regola is being prosecuted for his son's possession of a firearm, it is submitted that such prosecution should be dismissed," wrote defense lawyer Charles Porter.

Regola's defense team submitted 18 pages of legal arguments asking Westmoreland County Judge John Blahovec to throw out the gun charge as well as felony perjury counts and a misdemeanor offense of reckless endangerment. The defense also wants District Attorney John Peck removed from the case.

Farrell had a key to the Regola home to feed the dogs while the Regolas were in Harrisburg and Bobby was out until the night of July 21, 2006.

Regola's 9 mm Taurus handgun was found next to Farrell's body. Regola initially told police the gun had been kept in his son's bedroom before it was moved to an unlocked box in the master bedroom several months before Farrell died, police said.

During a coroner's inquest last year, Regola testified the gun was never kept in his son's room. That discrepancy is the basis of the perjury charges.

Regola, who is seeking a second term, would be barred from serving in the Senate if he is convicted of a felony.

In yesterday's filing, Porter wrote, "While the commonwealth is permitted to place reasonable restrictions on firearms, it is unreasonable and unconstitutional to prevent an adult from allowing their teenage child to possess a firearm in their home for the purpose of self-defense."

Bobby Regola, now 18, was adjudicated delinquent -- the juvenile court equivalent of a conviction in adult court -- of a misdemeanor gun possession count.

Peck said the gun charge Regola faces is constitutionally sound.

"The fact that you apparently use a gun for self-defense doesn't absolve you from a firearms offense," the district attorney said yesterday.

Peck is expected to submit a written legal argument in two weeks to support the charges against Regola, who faces a trial set for May.

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