FOREST HILLS (KDKA) — Chief Mark Holtzman of the Forward Township Police Department usually visits a magistrate because a suspect has to face a hearing there.
But today he was at court in Forest Hills because he is the defendant in an alleged gambling ring.
He was not chief at the time the alleged crimes occurred, but he remains chief in Forward Township even as the case proceeds.
His lawyer, Chuck LoPresti thinks that is fair.
“And I give the Forward Township Commissioners all the credit in the world,” said LoPresti. “Because as we all know, and this is very, very crucial, just because an allegation is made, there’s a presumption constitutionally that someone is not guilty, in fact is innocent, until they’re proven guilty and all the evidence in and we are so far away from that, so I give those commissioners a lot of credit in allowing him to continue on with his job.”
Holtzman and four others – James Cerqua of Clairton, Mark Novakovich of White Oak, Terence McNelis of Whitehall, and Rodney Iannelli of Ohio Township – waived their right to a preliminary hearing.
Their cases will go to court. In all, 16 defendants have been charged.
They are charged in connection with a video poker operation allegedly run by Ronald Melocchi of West Newton, who, according to the Pennsylvania Attorney General, used a garage in Glassport as his base of operations.
Chief Holtzman’s lawyer says his client was not close to Melocchi.
“Not at all,” said LoPresti. “Not at all. I can probably say that it is so collateral that it’s unseemly.”
LoPresti would not say whether he might pursue a plea deal but did say this:
“We intend to continue to have discussions with the Attorney General’s Office with respect to what they’ve done so far, so hopefully we’ll be able to make something very positive happen here as a result of all the negativity that’s occurring, so that’s my goal here,” said LoPresti. “I mean it’s no secret we’re just trying to save a guy’s life and a guy’s job. That’s all.”
In the months leading up to trial you can expect attorneys for the other 15 defendants to have similar discussions with the Pennsylvania Attorney General.