An attorney for the suspended Aliquippa assistant police chief has motioned for a charge dismissal hearing ahead of the scheduled May 6 trial, has notified the judge he intends to call District Attorney David Lozier as a witness, and has asked to have the Beaver County District Attorney’s Office disqualified from prosecuting the case.
Joseph Perciavalle faces a misdemeanor charge of corrupting a minor and a felony violation of the Wiretap Act.
Defense Attorney Steven Townsend included with his motion a copy of the disputed recorded conversation between Perciavalle and Police Chief Donald Couch, who is also suspended. The recording had previously been played in its entirety in open court by prosecutors during a preliminary hearing for Perciavalle on Dec. 4.
Perciavalle made the 39-minute recording without Couch’s knowledge on March 2 of last year, as state police executed a search warrant inside city hall. Townsend disputes an assertion by prosecutors that it was made as the two sat together in a patrol car alone, instead asserting they were speaking between two open windows in separate vehicles in a parking lot and that others were around and heard.
On the recording, Couch and Perciavalle can be heard speculating about what the state police may be investigating, including the possibility that investigators might be looking into a misappropriation of pension funds. A third unidentified voice is also discernible on the recording.
Townsend said Perciavalle didn’t violate the Wiretap Act because he had a legal right as a witness to record it if he had a reasonable suspicion it could be evidence of a previous, current or future violent crime.
Townsend wrote that District Attorney David Lozier knew Perciavalle was a witness in an ongoing investigation with both state and federal officials. BeaverCountian.com published an investigative report on Nov. 1 detailing a series of text messages between Perciavalle and Lozier. During their exchange, Perciavalle wrote about providing evidence to Lozier of alleged financial improprieties and civil rights violations involving the Aliquippa police department.
Townsend also wrote that Couch knew Perciavalle was a participant and/or witness to an active investigation into Aliquippa finances, corruption and the police department.
Townsend alleged that Couch should have had no expectation of privacy in a public area. He also alleged that Lozier was aware of threats Couch made against Perciavalle.
In a separate motion, Townsend also alleged the evidence did not substantiate the charge of corrupting a minor.
That charge resulted from a June arrest in which county detectives accused Perciavalle of sending an obscene text message to then Aliquippa police Sgt. Kenneth Watkins’ then 17-year-old daughter, Lauren. Detectives had confiscated Lauren’s smartphone as part of Rachael DelTondo’s May 13 murder investigation.
The Wiretap Act violation charge came in July after county detectives reviewed Perciavalle’s confiscated smartphone.
Townsend wrote in his filing that the prosecution failed to prove that Perciavalle had ill intent, and that Lauren herself testified that no harm had been done.
Prosecutors projected the text message video on a large wall during the December preliminary hearing, showing a nude woman urinating while swinging on a swing.
Townsend wrote that the text message accidentally was sent as a group message labeled “Kenny Watkins” and was never intended for Lauren. Townsend also noted that Lauren testified at Perciavalle’s preliminary hearing that detectives threatened her and her parents if she didn’t cooperate with the prosecution.
Townsend wrote that he will call Lozier to testify at the hearing, which will make him a witness and that he is legally prohibited from prosecuting a case in which he is a witness.
“As such, it is respectfully requested that this Court disqualify the Beaver County District Attorney’s Office from prosecuting this case,” he concluded.
Listen To Perciavalle’s Recording:
(The first voice heard clearly on the recording (at the 12sec mark) is Donald Couch, the second louder voice is Joseph Perciavalle. The audio recording was played in its entirety as evidence in open court by the Beaver County District Attorney’s Office during a preliminary hearing held for Joseph Perciavalle on Dec. 4, 2018. It was also included as an exhibit as part of a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus filed with the Beaver County Court of Common Pleas on Feb. 25, 2019, by defense attorney Steven Townsend.)
BeaverCountian.com’s John Paul contributed to this report.