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Beaver
Thursday, October 17, 2019

Attorney General’s Office Drops County Detective’s Felony Case Against Aliquippa Assistant Police Chief

In yet another embarrassing blow to Beaver County District Attorney David Lozier, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office has dropped a felony wiretap case brought by his detectives against Aliquippa’s assistant police chief.

Deputy Attorney General Alicia Werner filed a motion with the court today, notifying a judge that her office no longer wants to proceed with a prosecution of Joseph Perciavalle for recording a conversation with Aliquippa Police Chief Donald Couch in March 2018.

The move by the Attorney General’s Office comes after the Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) issued ethics guidance to one of Lozier’s own prosecutors advising her to exercise caution in following his lead on the case.

County detectives discovered the recorded conversation while searching Perciavalle’s smartphone, which had been seized after they arrested him the first time in June 2018 on unrelated charges.

Defense attorney Steven Townsend insisted Beaver County Detectives had overstepped their bounds during a search of Perciavalle’s phone and should never have been snooping at his audio recordings to begin with.

While the Attorney General’s Office continues to believe Perciavalle’s recording of Couch likely violated the Wiretap Act, they now appear to agree with Townsend’s assessment of the search by county detectives. In her filing with the court, Werner told a judge the decision to drop the case came “after fully considering and evaluating the search warrants effectuated on the Defendant’s phone and the supporting case law.”

Prior to Perciavalle’s charges, the officer had gone to Lozier repeatedly in 2016 with possible evidence of corruption in the police department.

The officer has alleged that Lozier took no action on the information he provided and that his arrests by county detectives, several of whom are former Aliquippa police officers, were acts of retaliation. Lozier denied those claims.

Townsend made it clear he intended to call Lozier as a witness as part of his defense of Perciavalle.

Perciavalle was first arrested by county detectives on June 8, 2018 on charges of felony distribution of sexually explicit material to a minor, felony unlawful contact with a minor, and misdemeanor corruption of a minor. Perciavalle has been on paid administrative leave since that time.

County detectives alleged that Perciavalle sent then-17-year-old Lauren Watkins a text message containing a short video of a semi-nude woman urinating while on a swing.

Both Perciavalle and Watkins have said the “meme” video was sent to her by mistake as part of a group text message intended for her father, Aliquippa Police Sgt. Kenneth Watkins, who has since been demoted to patrolman.

The video was discovered when detectives were examining Lauren Watkins’ phone as part of their investigation into the 2018 Mother’s Day murder of Rachael DelTondo. That case remains unsolved.

During a preliminary hearing on Dec. 4, Watkins testified that the clip was accidentally sent to her by Perciavalle, and that she had not viewed it until she was shown a copy by county detectives as part of their investigation.

District Judge Edward Howe subsequently dismissed the two felony charges of disseminating sexually explicit materials and unlawful contact with a minor, but held for trial the misdemeanor corruption of minors charge and the felony wiretap charge for recording Couch.

Perciavalle argued his recording of Couch was lawful, because he had been acting as an informant against Couch and had reason to fear there may be an attempt to intimidate him. Couch is also currently on administrative suspension.

Following the PBA’s ethics guidance in March, the Beaver County District Attorney’s Office recused itself from prosecuting Perciavalle. The Attorney General’s Office then took over prosecution of the cases against him and on May 9 refiled the two felony charges against him that were dismissed by Howe last year.

The results were the same, with a second judge dismissing the case.

Townsend strongly criticized the Attorney General’s Office for refiling the charges against Perciavalle, echoing his client’s assertions that he believes what the public is witnessing is retaliation against a whistleblower.

Today’s move by the Attorney General’s Office to drop the felony wiretap case against Perciavaille leaves just a single remaining misdemeanor charge of corruption of minors from Dec. 4.

In a motion still pending before the court, Townsend is asking a common pleas judge to dispose of that charge as well, saying the case can not stand as a matter of law when the underlying offenses have all been dismissed.

John Paul
John Paul
John Paul is the founder of the Beaver Countian. He reports full-time for the site, specializing in investigative journalism with an emphasis on public corruption.

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Walk
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Walk

Lazier operates with a bloated salary, that is only matched be his pompous ego. He has cost the taxpayers of BC excessive amounts of $$’s and nothing to show for it, it’s time for this incompetent ass to go. … For anyone who supports his reelection …please give me ONE reason not to feel this way.

Mr. Obvious
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Mr. Obvious

So in the course of an entire year, a murder remains free while the only thing that the DA has actually accomplished was to provide this officer with a year long paid vacation on the tax payers dime.

Perhaps, the DA might explain why county detectives showed the video in question to Watkin’s daughter. If she claimed not to have seen a video described by the county detectives and its contents were so horrific that it rose to the level of a felony, then wouldn’t it actually be the detectives committing the felony by showing it to her? I’m pretty sure if someone said they didn’t see a video of a woman peeing on a swing, you’re not going to jog their memory by showing them a specific video of a woman peeing on swing. Why would sending a video that wasn’t seen considered to be a felony but making her actually watch the video is considered to be an investigative technique rather than a felony?

Anybody who would vote to reelect this DA should, in my opinion, get their head examined. Charles Manson would be a better choice than this bonehead.

Walk
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Walk

I agree Charles Manson would be a better choice. . . . and he’s dead !

Icanread
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Icanread

Let’s replace this guy with Knafelc. He’s young, but he has criminal experience and isn’t the errand boy of anyone, like Lozier is the errand boy of Jim Christiana

Gringo
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Gringo

After 10 minutes of scrolling to get to the comments, I just wonder why no one comments anymore? There are about as many comments as the Times stories!!

Trina Gonzalez
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Trina Gonzalez

I also wondered about the lack of comments. It’s probably due to the apathy of the county residents. Let’s face it, no suspect arrested for the latest murder, local police hands are tied, county government is rife with corruption, people too afraid to speak out,the list goes on. I used to think Beaver County is the only corrupt county, but I was wrong! People are becoming complacent, thinking they might as well accept the status quo. Wake up folks, there are honest people who will make the right choices. It is no longer acceptable to vote the party ticket! Demand good government, search for the right choices, use your vote to get rid of the crap that has been going on! It might be hard, even dangerous to buck the system, but if you want good leaders, you will stand up to the bullies.

equalizer13
Member
equalizer13

BC Times going under soon. Hopewell is the end of the line for the few that are left printing propaganda directly from the courthouse crooks and cronies. if Trump bashing wasn’t perpetuated in this area the paper would consist of obits and of course our sports! The most biased piece of shit rag besides the NYT, Washington Post & Huffington blather. No objectivity just spoonfeeding shit to the gullible elderly and oblivious. Not a Trump fan but for Christ’s sake give us the news and let US decide.

equalizer13
Member
equalizer13

I’m also puzzled by the lack of comments but there hasn’t be any red meat thrown out yet. Wait until closer to election (September/October) and everyone will be slinging the mud. The BC Times is all in with Stonewall and his bullshit opioid scare. (Diverts attention from ongoing criminal activities and he and his merry dicks lack of ability/competence to solve a crime. They sure as hell can figure out the OT factor though. They also continue their lovefest with the totally incompetent Midget and his new stickers on cars. He paid for them himself! What a Guy, Guy. Next you’ll be the bishop at St Titus. God knows what a scum you are and your brazen budget busting policies. Even the Sleeper has gotten his name in the paper for voicing opinions on nit noid items. Never had any advice or comments for most of his career except before election time. Remember the three amigos that appealed the certain tax assessment issue. Between the reassessment and the bungled IRS shit we the taxpayers are on the hook for millions. Of course that will occur after this election. Sleeper will have a nice fat pension to go with his stolen teaching pension. Has anybody seen from Conehead? Put his picture on a milk cartoon. I think he has been kidnapped or is headed to Area 51 to find his family tree. Come on JP, throw us some good reports. We’re getting bored this summer.

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