PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) – A former karate instructor accused of sexually assaulting multiple students will stand trial on charges that he tried to have witnesses killed.
Michael Scherbanic, 29, a South Park native, was scheduled to face a preliminary hearing Friday on charges that he offered a cellmate at the Allegheny County Jail up to $100,000 to intimidate and retaliate against victims in the ongoing sexual assault case.
His attorney Richard Narvin says his client “maintains he is innocent” of the charges.
“My client and I elected to waive the preliminary hearing in this hearing because we felt strategically there would not be a great deal to be gained,” said defense attorney Richard Narvin. “That does not mean in any stretch of the imagination we’re not contesting these charges.”
If police recorded tapes of conversations, allegedly between Scherbanic and his cellmate, would have been played in court, investigators say the judge would have heard the suspect “offering to provide a hand drawn schematic of a residence, including propane tanks that could be exploded to kill multiple residents, including the targeted victims.”
Investigators say he used a reference from the “Star Wars” movies as a codename for his plan.
Scherbanic is charged with up to 27 counts of criminal solicitation. Five of those counts include criminal homicide.
“They were going to call no witnesses, but merely produced the supervising officer to play excerpts from a tape, which had been recorded that allegedly contains my client and a witness, who they are not going to call today,” said Narvin.
Scherbanic was charged last year in five separate sexual assault cases. Police say the victims, who ranged in age from 12 to 20, were students at the Tang Soo Do Karate College in North Versailles.
He is locked up at the Allegheny County Jail.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)