In The News
MEDIA COURTHOUSE – A Philadelphia man who pleaded guilty to one count of possession of child pornography and one count of criminal use of a communication in July was sentenced this month to 11½ to 23 months in prison.
Anthony Vassallo, 45, of the 2400 block of Gaul Street, had been arraigned on 82 counts of possessing child pornography in 2010. Under the negotiated plea deal worked out between Assistant District Attorney Joe Lesniak and defense attorney Michael Diamondstein, Vassallo will serve 15 consecutive weekends at the George W. Hill Correctional Facility in Concord with the remainder to be served on electronic home monitoring.
Vassallo, who was determined not to be a sexual violent offender by the Pennsylvania Sexual Offender Assessment Board, will also have to comply with recommendations of a psychosexual evaluation and special rules for sex offenders during his seven years of probation.
Senior Judge Charles Keeler said Vassallo will additionally have to register as a sexual offender for 10 years, provide a DNA sample to Pennsylvania State Police and forfeit his computer.
– ALEX ROSE
MEDIA COURTHOUSE – A jury had been picked and was ready to hear testimony in the case of a Philadelphia man accused of rape and related charges for a December 2011 sexual assault, when the defendant instead decided to enter a negotiated guilty plea.
James Michael Kenan, 24, of the first block of Millick Street, pleaded guilty to one count of sexual assault for the Dec. 17 incident in which he had sex with a sleeping 22-year-old female at her home in Upper Darby.
According to an affidavit of probable cause written by Upper Darby police Detective Arthur Erle, the victim had friends over the night before, most of whom left at about 2 a.m.
Kenan stayed the night, but slept on top of the victim’s covers, while the victim slept under the covers – an arrangement Kenan had respected in the past, according to the affidavit.
But the victim awoke around 8:30 a.m. with a feeling of vaginal penetration and discovered her jeans had been pulled down, the affidavit states.
She also saw Kenan rolling away with his hand on his shorts as though he had just pulled them up.
The woman immediately confronted Kenan, who admitted to having sex with her while she slept, according to the affidavit.
Police responded to a call from the victim’s mother later that day, and the woman was taken to Delaware County Memorial Hospital to have an assault kit completed.
Kenan turned himself in to Upper Darby Police on Dec. 31 and again admitted to having sex with the victim while she was asleep, according to the affidavit. He was charged with rape, sexual assault, indecent assault and aggravated indecent assault.
The remaining charges will be dismissed, under the plea agreement worked out between Assistant District Attorney Joseph Lesniak and defense attorney Dennis Woody.
Lesniak is recommending a sentence of three to seven years in a state correctional facility.
Kenan will also have two years of probation and will have to register as a sex offender for life under Megan’s Law.
Judge Patricia Jenkins has set sentencing for Nov. 19, pending the results of a psychosexual evaluation and state Sexual Offenders Assessment Board evaluation to determine if Kenan is a sexually violent predator.
MEDIA COURTHOUSE – A Chester man who pleaded guilty in March to raping a 15-year-old girl after luring her into his van was deemed a sexually violent predator Thursday and sentenced to five to 10 years in a state correctional facility.
Mikal Abdul Malik, 25, pleaded guilty twice since his August 2010 arrest. His first plea, given in June 2011, was later withdrawn and the charges reinstated. Malik pleaded again in March of this year and an evaluation by the state Sexual Offenders Assessment Board was ordered.
Dr. Barbara Ziv, a forensic psychiatrist and member of that board, testified Thursday that it was her opinion Malik is a sexually violent predator as defined by the commonwealth statute. To fit the criteria, Malik had to have shown predatory behavior and have a personality disorder or mental abnormality.
Ziv said the luring and rape, which included the use of a gun and death threats, satisfied the first prong. The second was met by a diagnosis of anti-social personality disorder, she said, as evidenced by Malik’s history of aggression, including sexual aggression and lack of remorse for his actions.
Ziv said she had not been able to personally interview Malik, but based her opinion on various documents, including a psychosexual evaluation and police records.
Malik, represented by defense attorney Clinton Johnson, also took the stand Thursday. He said the sexual aggression Ziv noted was taken out of context. He described consensual light bondage between himself and a girlfriend, as well as a partner who had wanted him to put his hand on her throat, but said it was not his idea and was done for her pleasure, not his.
Malik added that he had pleaded guilty because he admitted to doing some things in the affidavit of probable cause, but claimed he had not committed all of the crimes he was accused of. He did not identify specifically which things he had not done, but said taking the entire document as true made him appear worse than he really is.
“I have a normal sex life and I’m not a sexually violent predator,” he told Judge James Bradley. “I don’t prey on young girls, I don’t prey on little kids. That’s not me.”
Judge Bradley granted Assistant District Attorney Joseph Lesniak’s motion to deem Malik a sexually violent predator.
In addition to jail time, Malik will have to register as a sexual offender under Megan’s Law for the rest of his life and serve three years probation as a sex offender.
He was also ordered not to have any contact with the victim or her family.
MEDIA COURTHOUSE – A 30-year-old Folsom construction worker who pleaded guilty in February to possessing child pornography was sentenced to 11½ to 23 months in prison with seven years of probation.
Stephen C. DiValerio Jr., of the 400 block of Folsom Avenue, had pleaded guilty before Judge Patricia Jenkins to two counts of abuse of children for possessing child pornography and a single charge of criminal use of a communications facility, all felonies of the third degree.
DiValerio was arrested in October after detectives with the Delaware County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force traced a computer sharing two known child pornography files on the Gnutella network to his home.
According to an affidavit of probable cause, County Detectives Lisa Carroll, Lt. David Peifer and other law enforcement seized an eMachines computer during a search of DiValerio’s home in late March. A forensic analysis of the computer, which DiValerio will have to forfeit as part of his sentence, yielded five video files of apparent child pornography.
DiValerio allegedly told authorities he watched adult and child pornography for sexual pleasure, but had never touched a child nor taken any pictures or videos of children. He also said he knew child pornography was illegal.
Assistant District Attorney Joseph Lesniak said the Pennsylvania Sexual Offenders Assessment Board found DiValerio is not a sexually violent predator. He will have to follow special probation rules and register for life as a sexual offender under Megan’s Law, however.
– ALEX ROSE
MEDIA COURTHOUSE – An Upper Darby man who pleaded guilty in November to three counts of possessing child pornography was sentenced Monday to 12½ to 25 years in a state correctional facility.
Timothy Duffy, 43, was arrested in June after members of the Delaware County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force traced a computer sharing 80 files on the Gnutella network to Duffy’s residence in the of the 200 block of Huntley Road.
Duffy admitted to investigators that he had nearly 40 images of child pornography on his home computer, most of which were videos.
Detective Joe Walsh said in an affidavit of probable cause that he had identified more than 50 images and videos of child pornography on Duffy’s computer.
According to an affidavit of probable cause, Duffy said he usually looked for images of children between the ages of 9 and 15 years old, and admitted he knew he was sharing child pornography over the Internet.
He previously served two years in a federal prison for possession of child pornography and was facing a mandatory minimum of 25 years behind bars if convicted on new charges. Duffy instead took a plea worked out by Assistant District Attorney Joseph Lesniak and defense counsel Steven Pacillio for three counts of child pornography, all first-degree felonies, each with a consecutive sentence of 3½ to seven years in state prison.
He also pleaded to one count of criminal use of a communications facility, a third-degree felony for which he was sentenced to an additional two to four years in prison.
“I’m very sorry for what I did,” Duffy told Judge James Nilon Monday. “I really wish I could turn back the clock and make it that this never happened. I’ve had time to think and I realize how precious children are and that adults are supposed to protect them and not abuse them.”
Duffy was not deemed a sexually violent predator by the Pennsylvania Sexual Offenders Assessment Board, but he will have to register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law for the rest of his life.
He was also ordered to provide a DNA sample to state police, forfeit his computer and comply with the recommendations of a psychosexual evaluation.
As A Defense Attorney
Media – A county judge sealed Magisterial District Judge Walter McCray’s spot on the GOP primary when his petition filing was challenged by Brookhaven police officer George Pappas.
Presiding Common Pleas Judge Kathrynann Durham rejected Pappas’ Tuesday, allowing McCray to remain on the primary ballot. The final decision came within a day of the hearing.
Durham was unavailable to comment on the reasoning behind her decision.
Pappas’ attorney, Michael T. Sweeney, of Lyman & Ash, declined commenting on the case.
McCray served 19 years as a district judge. He was originally appointed in January 1996, after his father Walter McCray Jr. retired. That same year, voters selected McCray over former longtime Democratic Brookhaven councilwoman Janice Sawicki.
His term is set to expire and Pappas, who also sought McCray’s seat, planned to fight McCray off the primary ballot for unsigned affidavit petition documents.
Sweeney argued that McCray’s failure to submit affidavit petition documents with a signature from a notary is reason enough to remove his name from the primary election.
The documents were stamped, but not signed during notarization.
Notary requirements were argued Monday.
“There are requirements that every notary must follow,” Sweeney said Monday. He said Donna Fooks failed to follow requirements outlined in the state statue.
McCray’s attorney, Joseph Lesniak, argued that the document lacked space for both a seal and signature.
Lesniak did not return a request for comment Wednesday.
Fooks testified that she thought the seal without a signature was justified since the document lacked space for the seal and signature.
Sweeney told the Delaware County Daily Times after the hearing Monday that the lack-of-room excuse is “garbage.” He said the law requires the notary to sign, date and seal a document to classify it as certified.
Despite Sweeney pointing to the Pennsylvania statute, Durham’s decision dubbed the seal without a signature qualified as a notarized document.
Pappas’ petition was challenged by district judge candidate and attorney Matthew Stone. Stone claims Pappas’ residence is outside the district required to run for the this bench seat. He said there are three properties attached to Pappas’ name – two in Havertown and one in Brookhaven.
To run for McCray’s seat, the candidate must live in Brookhaven, Parkside, Upland or Chester Township.
Presiding Common Pleas Judge James Proud denied Stone’s challenge. Pappas will remain on the GOP primary ballot.
– KRISTINA SCALA, Delaware County Daily Times
MEDIA COURTHOUSE – Two-year-old Mason Hunt was “terrorized during the last two days of his life,” Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan said Friday announcing the arrests of the boy’s mother and her boyfriend on third-degree murder, aggravated assault and related offenses.
Shannon Matthews, 30, of Chester, and Daniel Grafton, 31, of Nether Providence, are being held without bail at the county prison. Grafton had been in custody on endangering the welfare of children and reckless endangerment offenses in connection with the Feb. 3 death of the little boy.
Neither defendant had any comment on the charges – which date back to when they lived together in an apartment in the 400 block of Chester Pike in Norwood – as they were being led out of the courthouse in handcuffs Friday afternoon.
“We believe both played an active role in the horrific death of this boy,” Whelan said at a press conference, noting that as many as 120 contusions were found on Mason Hunt’s body.
Though official findings by the Delaware County Medical Examiner’s office remain pending, Whelan indicated the toddler died from blunt force trauma and possibly other factors that remain under investigation.
“While my final opinions are awaiting the performance of select ancillary studies derived from the autopsy of this child, it is clear that the circumstances of this child’s death are homicidal in nature,” Delaware County Medical Examiner Dr. Fredric N. Hellman wrote in a report on Mason Hunt’s death, dated April 10.
According to Whelan, a joint investigation led by county Detective Adam Sendek and Norwood Police Cpl. Christopher Kennedy revealed “multiple inconsistent statements” by Matthews and Grafton, including their time lines on the day in question and other details.
“This child died as a result of bleeding internally because of so many punches, so many pinches, all over his body,” Whelan said Friday, dismissing a bathtub-drowning scenario described by Grafton.
It was about 4:40 p.m. Feb. 3 when Norwood police and ambulance were dispatched to a doctor’s office at 425 Chester Pike for a medical emergency involving the toddler. The couple resided at the time in an apartment above the office, which was where Matthews worked.
When police and paramedics arrived, they found Mason “cold to the touch, ashen-colored and unresponsive,” according to the district attorney’s office. The boy was taken to Taylor Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 5:52 p.m.
According to the district attorney’s office, “There were numerous bruises on his face, head, shoulder, chest, elbow, genitals and anus, as well as several deep bruises on the right and left side of the toddler’s body.”
Matthews told authorities she left for work at 10:45 that morning, leaving her son in Grafton’s care, according to charging documents. At 3:33 p.m., she texted her supervisor that she was going to buy snacks for Mason and Grafton, and was in the apartment for two or three minutes. Grafton told her that Mason was in the tub, and she returned to work.
At 4:40 p.m., Grafton came down to the doctor’s office, carrying the boy’s limp body, wrapped in towels. He was screaming that the boy was not breathing, according to documents.
A physician in the office, Dr. Patricia Sutton, took the child from Grafton and started cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, while at the same time noticing multiple bruises on the boy’s body and head. According to documents, Grafton told Sutton at this time that he had Mason in the tub, left him in the tub for two or three minutes to get cheese curls from the kitchen.
Later, while talking to investigators, Grafton said Matthews peeked in on Mason while he was in the tub before she returned to work. He said when Matthews left the apartment and he returned to the bathroom, he found Mason face down in the tub.
“This is not a drowning,” Whelan said Friday.
At the time of his death, Mason Hunt and his 6-year-old brother were already under the supervision of the Children and Youth Services of Delaware County for an incident on Jan. 5 when Mason “was doused with seasoning salt on his head and eyes, while in his crib,” according to Whelan and charging documents.
As a result of that incident – which came to light as a result of a 911 call for a domestic incident – Whelan said Mason Hunt was treated at the hospital for abrasions and corneal lacerations.
Whelan said both Matthews and Grafton told authorities that Mason Hunt caused these injuries to himself. With a lack of evidence to support any charges at that time, Whelan said CYS was notified.
And on Feb. 2, when a CYS case worker employee arrived at the apartment, Whelan said, “Grafton actively and intentionally did not answer the door.”
Grafton sent a text to Matthews saying he did not want to open the door for the “dude,” with Mason’s body being badly bruised, documents state.
During a police interview Feb. 4, Matthews said Grafton was watching Mason on Monday and Tuesday of that week, Feb. 2 and 3, because his usual daycare providers would have noticed bruising on his body.
“Oh God, yeah, I would have called CYS myself if I worked in a daycare and a child came in like that, yeah, one hundred and ten percent,” the affidavit quotes her as saying to investigators on Feb. 4.
According to Whelan, Mason Hunt regularly attended daycare.
He said Friday that both Matthews and Grafton “made sure the child was kept in the apartment,” to avoid the CYS caseworker and individuals at the daycare who would have discerned the “gross amount of injuries” to the boy.
“They planned from texts … she was aware of the injuries,” Whelan said.
While the investigation continues regarding any previous abuse, “Whelan said, “This boy was terrorized during the last two days of his life.”
Matthews was arrested Friday morning in Chester, where she resides with her mother. She was described as tearful during her brief appearance at the preliminary arraignment, before Magisterial District Judge Peter P. Tozer. She was accompanied by defense attorney Joseph Lesniak. Attempts to reach Lesniak for comment were unsuccessful.
Grafton was transported from the county prison to Tozer’s courtroom for preliminary arraignment on the new charges. His attorney, Mark Much, was not in court Friday morning, and attempts to reach him for comment were unsuccessful.
Additional charges filed Friday against the pair include endangering the welfare of children, reckless endangerment, involuntary manslaughter and criminal conspiracy. A preliminary hearing is scheduled May 15 before Tozer.
When asked about a possible motive in the case, Whelan said Friday, “They are not indicating to us why.”
Last week in Tozer’s court, Mason Hunt’s father, Paul Hunt, and Matthews were among about 30 people gathered for what was to be Grafton’s preliminary hearing on the initial charges. That hearing was continued at the request of Deputy District Michael Galantino due to new developments in the case.
Many of Hunt’s family members and friends wore T-shirts bearing the little boy’s image, along with the words, “Justice 4 Mason.”
According to Whelan, Mason’s 6-year-old sibling has been placed with relatives.
Mason Hunt’s death brings the county homicide toll this year to seven.
Galantino, Sendek and Kennedy joined Whelan at the press conference, along with Norwood Police Chief Mark DelVecchio, Criminal Investigation Chief Joseph Ryan and county Detective William Gordon.
– ROSE QUINN, Delaware County Daily Times
MEDIA COURTHOUSE – Four out of five defendants charged with the physical and sexual abuse of five Darby Borough children inside a home on the 200 block of North Seventh Street last year have been sentenced by Judge Mary Alice Brennan.
Four of the defendants had previously entered guilty pleas and one had been sentenced.
Daryl “Turk” Carter, 27, pleaded guilty Friday to one count of endangering the welfare of a child, a felony of the third degree, and one count of simple assault, a first-degree misdemeanor.
Carter, represented by attorney James Ephraim Lee, was sentenced to nine to 23 months at the county prison in Concord for his role in the case, as well as four years of consecutive probation. He has been incarcerated since Oct. 14, satisfying the minimum of the prison sentence.
Carter’s brother, Mark Isom, 21, pleaded guilty in May to one count of simple assault by a person 18 years or older against a victim 12 or younger, a misdemeanor of the first degree. Isom, also represented by Lee, was previously sentenced to time served to 23 months with one year of consecutive probation. Co-defendants William Wade, 23, Shakia Jackson, 31, and Danielle Hammond, 22, who lived together at the Seventh Street address during the period of alleged abuse, were also sentenced Friday.
The abuse allegedly consisted of “being punched, slapped, thrown over a bannister, shot repeatedly with BB guns all over their bodies, some shots leaving marks, scars and causing at least two of the children to bleed,” according to an affidavit of probable cause.
One of the defendants is related to some of the children involved, according to officials, and allegedly admitted to shooting the victims with BB guns. Four of the children were shot with BBs, including one who was allegedly shot in the head, stomach and buttocks. The relative told investigators that the adults “were only playing and the children wanted to be shot,” according to the affidavit.
The children were additionally exposed to sexual acts between an adult male and female, and one child was allegedly used for oral sex with an adult, according to the affidavit.
County Detective Mark D. Bucci began an investigation in June and all five defendants were in custody by November. One of the children allegedly told Bucci and Sgt. Robin Clark, supervisor of the county’s Special Victims Unit, that incidents inside the house included “nasty stuff,” meaning sexual acts.
Lee noted that Carter’s plea and involvement in the case was related only to the BB guns, not any of the sexual allegations in the affidavit of probable cause. Carter apologized for making “bad choices” Friday.
Hammond, represented by attorney Joseph Lesniak, previously pleaded to one count of corruption of minors, a misdemeanor of the third degree, but withdrew that plea Friday and instead entered a plea of simple assault, also a third-degree misdemeanor. She was sentenced to three years of county probation.
Jackson, represented by Dawn Getty Sutphin, and Wade, represented by Richard Fuschino, each previously pleaded to endangering the welfare of a child, a felony of the third degree. Wade additionally pleaded guilty to indecent exposure and corruption of minors, both misdemeanors of the first degree.
Hammond, who had been incarcerated for nine months, received a sentence of time served to 23 months with four years of consecutive probation.
Wade, a semi-professional football player and football coach at Bartram and Ben Franklin High Schools, tearfully apologized to the court and victims Friday.
Assistant District Attorney Pearl Kim requested a state sentence in his case or maximum county sentence with sex offender probation. Fuschino argued his client had no prior contact with law enforcement and had made a mistake, for which he accepted responsibility and cooperated with authorities.
Brennan sentenced Wade to nine to 23 months with credit from Nov. 7, as well as four years of consecutive probation. Wade is also to comply with the recommendations of a psychosexual evaluation.
Assistant District Attorney Christopher Boggs stood in for Kim at each of Friday’s hearings except for Wade’s.
Each of the non-relative defendants were also ordered to have no contact with the victims and those pleading to felonies were ordered to provide a DNA sample to state police.
– ALEX ROSE, Delaware County Daily Times
MEDIA COURTHOUSE – Three teenagers involved in a videotaped fight inside Chester High School in May entered pleas before Judge Gregory Mallon Monday.
Omar Davis, 19, and Jordan Morales, 16, each entered open guilty pleas of conspiracy to commit aggravated assault, a felony of the second degree, and were sentenced to time served to 23 months at the county prison in Concord.
Edward Stanley, 18, represented by Stanley J. Ellenberg, also entered a no contest plea of conspiracy to recklessly endangering another person, a misdemeanor of the second degree, for which he was also sentenced to time served to 23 months.
Assistant District Attorney Geoff Paine prosecuted each case. Davis was represented by Joseph Lesniak, while Neil Montague served as counsel for Morales.
According to an affidavit of probable cause, Davis, Morales, Citerrah Gomillon, 16, and Clayton Newman, 18, are seen in the video assaulting another student in the school’s library on May 7.
The victim is punched, kicked and hit with a chair in the short video, which appears to be shot by Stanley and was posted to his Facebook page in July. Morales and Davis are both identified in the affidavit as striking the victims with a chair, fists and their feet. Newman can be seen rifling through the victim’s pockets, taking his cellphone and several other items, the affidavit said, and Gomillon can be seen kicking the victim in the back.
Gomillon and Newman each pleaded last week to conspiracy to commit aggravated assault, for which they were also sentenced to time served to 23 months. Gomillon, represented by Kevin O’Neill, also received two years of probation and Newman, represented by David William Edelman, was given three years of probation.
Davis and Morales were also given three years of probation Monday, and ordered to attend anger management classes and provide a DNA sample to state police.
Both Morales and Stanley apologized to the victim Monday. Mallon offered each defendant the same advice: “Stay away from the nitwits you hang around with. Make some new friends.”
– ALEX ROSE
CHESTER – Five Chester High School students accused of conspiring to assault a fellow student in the school library will face trial on charges of aggravated assault, simple assault, possession of an instrument of crime, reckless endangerment, robbery and conspiracy.
Magisterial District Judge Dawn Vann held charges against Edward Stanley, 18, Jordan Morales, 16, Clayton Newman, 18, Citerrah Gomillon, 16, and Omar Davis, 19, during the defendants’ preliminary hearing Tuesday. They are all being tried as adults.
The teenagers are accused of beating up another student in the library May 7 while Stanley recorded a video of the incident. Stanley later posted the video to YouTube and Facebook.
That video was the subject of much of the testimony at the preliminary hearing, but it was not shown. Chester Police Officer Robert Jones testified to the content of the video, which he said Stanley admitted to posting online.
As the students walk down the hallway toward the library, Stanley shows his face on camera and says, “We’re about to get it on in here,” Jones testified. Gomillon adds that the day is “National Fight Day,” before the students enter the library, he testified.
The victim, who also testified, claimed Davis immediately confronted him upon entering the library.
“He came in and said we had a beef,” the victim testified. “He picked up a chair. I walked over and tried to get it from him because he was going to hit me with it.”
The victim testified that he swiped the chair from Davis and grabbed him by his shirt. Davis then punched him in the face, the victim testified, and the two tumbled to the ground, where the victim wrestled himself on top of Davis. The victim said he repeatedly punched Davis.
As he was hitting Davis, the victim testified that someone struck him on the back of the head and neck with a chair. He blacked out and did not regain consciousness until his perpetrators had fled, the victim said.
“After I got up, nobody was there,” the victim testified. “There was a teacher telling me not to move.”
The victim testified that he was transported to the hospital where he received four staples in the back of his head and suffered lacerations on his right hand, which was placed in a splint.
The victim testified that he only knew what happened to him after he blacked out because he watched the incident on video. He also said his cellphone had been stolen.
Jones testified that the video shows Morales was the first person to hit the victim with a chair after the fight tumbled to the ground. Jones said Morales hit the victim at least twice. Newman also struck the victim with a chair before reaching into both of the victim’s pockets, Jones said. Gomillon kicked the victim twice in the back, he testified.
The victim testified that he was friendly with Morales, but did not know the other defendants before the fight. He testified that he had not had any interactions with them previously that day and was unaware of any interactions his friends might have had with them.
During cross-examination, Jones testified that he watched the video two or three times before writing an affidavit of probable cause, but had not reviewed it since.
The defendants’ attorneys argued that Jones could not identify all of the defendants to the standards necessary in a prima facie case. They also argued his testimony was contrary to what he had written in the affidavit.
Stanley’s lawyer, Stanley Ellenberg, claimed his client was innocent of the charges because Stanley simply recorded the incident and did not engage in any confrontation.
“The only testimony we have against Mr. Stanley is that, unfortunately, he took a video of this event and posted it online,” Ellenberg said. “There is no crime.”
Assistant District Attorney George Dawson refuted that, claiming the video proves Stanley conspired in a group effort to assault the victim.
“He’s no different than a lookout in a group who’s dedicated to commit a crime,” Dawson said.
Joseph Lesniak, the attorney representing Davis, said his client was guilty of nothing more than simple assault, noting the victim made the first contact in the fight by grabbing Davis’ shirt. The victim, Lesniak said, could have fled.
“At best, this was a simple assault, mutual combat,” Lesniak said. “If you feel threatened, you don’t have a right to vigilancy.”
Dawson countered that the victim had no obligation to wait to be struck with a chair before acting in self-defense.
Aside from Stanley, the defendants have been unable to post bail and have been held in prison since their arrest in early May. Vann reduced the bail of each of the defendants to 10 percent of $50,000.
Delco pet ‘rescue’ operator convicted of animal cruelty (Briefly represented Silva)
A Delaware County lawyer who operated a Marcus Hook pet “rescue” operation that was raided in February was found guilty Tuesday of 43 counts of animal cruelty, 28 counts of dog-law violations, and two zoning violations.
Terry Silva, 53, who ran the Sixth Angel Shepherd Rescue Inc. out of her two-story building, had no comment after the hearing, where she represented herself.
She was fined $7,900.
The 28 charges of animal cruelty against an employee, Samantha Kenney, 28, of Marcus Hook, were dismissed.
Twenty-eight dogs, most of them German shepherd or shepherd mixes, were removed from the building, just a block from the borough hall, after neighbors complained about the strong odor and noise.
Many of the dogs were sick and underweight, officials said. One elderly dog was euthanized.
“Here is someone who was supposedly providing sanctuary and safe haven for animals in need but ironically was an abuser,” said Wendy Marano, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania SPCA. “That is what makes it especially egregious.”
In a video released by the SPCA, a rail-thin German shepherd struggled to stand on a feces-covered wood floor before he gave up and slid to the ground and looked up at the camera, which was held by a humane officer. Nearby were two more dogs – one peering out from a filthy crate and another pacing about the squalor.
Many of the dogs were sick and underweight. The dog in the video that slipped eventually was euthanized for health reasons, officials said. Most of the dogs have since been adopted, officials said.
Bruce A. Dorbian, the borough manager, said the process had been long and involved.
Silva has a history of appealing court cases, he said. “She is a litigator,” said Dorbian. “These are likely to be appealed, unfortunately.”
“This lady is a hoarder and needs psychological help,” said George Bengal, director of law enforcement for the state SPCA.
Bengal said that hoarders often are well-educated and caring but that when things go awry they can’t keep up with proper animal care.
He said Silva was cooperative and released the animals to authorities.
Silva has since petitioned for the return of five of the dogs, said SPCA lawyer Elizabeth Anderson.
Silva has had previous run-ins with authorities involving her rescue operations.
In November 2010, more than a dozen dogs were removed from a property used by Silva after complaints of unsanitary conditions. A caretaker was charged with cruelty in that case.
Also in 2010, Silva, former solicitor for the Chichester Area school board, was cited by the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement for illegally transporting dogs from North Carolina.
As Solicitor of a Municipal Case
Published: Tuesday, August 21, 2012
NETHER PROVIDENCE – Friends of a family that had to pull up stakes over longstanding zoning and property upkeep violations are mounting an effort to help battle the eviction.
The Delaware County Court of Common Pleas in late June issued an order requiring David Coletta and his sons to leave their property in the 300 block of South Providence Road. It did so after the Nether Providence sought the court action based on the family’s continued habitation of a modular home Coletta had placed in the backyard without seeking prior municipal permission.
Coletta complied with the order, but said he would continue to challenge the township’s actions in court.
A website dubbed delcodad.com has been set up to raise money for Coletta’s relocation and legal fees. Supporters also are using direct mail postcards to champion the cause.
“David Coletta has now appealed the injunction to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, but needs the help of Americans who will not stand for this tyranny,” the postcard reads in part. “Please join this Pennsylvania man and his four sons fight to stay on their own land.”
Last November, the widowed father sought to convince the township zoning board that he and his sons had no choice but to use the modular home after a tree fell on their house. He said the move was forced by unfruitful efforts to reach a settlement on repair costs with his home insurance company.
A lawyer representing Coletta, Daniel Pallen, told the board it was an “act of God” – specifically, an Oct. 20, 2010, rain and wind storm – that sent the tree crashing onto the brick-front house’s roof, causing significant damage.
Township Solicitor Joseph Lesniak called upon Police Chief Thomas Flannery, who disputed that explanation.
Flannery said he responded to the scene and saw a tree with a chunk missing but no root ball showing, indicating it had not been uprooted by a storm. What’s more, he said the weather that day was clear and sunny.
Also disputing the Coletta account of events was next-door neighbor Anthony Joes. According to Joes, he saw the tree being cut with a chain saw that day.
“I watched the tree fall and saw the commotion afterwards,” he said.
Joes said a blue tarp has covered the house since then, harming neighborhood property values and making it hard to believe anyone would want to buy it.
“One either complies with the law or one doesn’t,” Joes said.
Lesniak said the township had issued numerous citations to Coletta over the state of the condemned house and the use of the modular home. The solicitor added that Nether Providence opposed the granting of the variance, pointing out that the modular home was using an illegal, though safe, hookup to sewer service via the condemned house.
Pallen, Coletta’s attorney, asked the board for “compassion and common sense” to allow the family to continue using the modular home, saying the children living there attend local schools.
However, board members expressed concern about what constituted “temporary” use of the modular home, given that a clear path to resolution of the situation – in the form of repairs to the home damaged by the tree – had not been established.
In the end, the board voted 5-0 to reject the variance.
Coletta subsequently took his fight to county court, where he has been unsuccessful.