Veteran faces trial for fake report

HOLLIDAYSBURG – An Army veteran who contends that Logan Township police roughed him up at the Van Zandt VA Medical Center will stand trial on charges that he lied about what happened in the October 2008 incident.

Blair County Judge Timothy M. Sullivan this week dismissed pretrial motions on behalf of David Dempsey Rainelli Jr., previously of State College, contesting charges of two counts of unsworn falsification to authorities and two counts of false reports to law enforcement authorities.

Sullivan was asked to review the charges by Rainelli’s attorney, Joseph Hartye, a Blair County assistant public defender.

Hartye contended the charges were not brought within the two-year statute of limitations, that they were in violation of a plea agreement and that it was within Rainelli’s First Amendment right to criticize police.

Sullivan ruled that the charges were filed within the statute of limitations.

Hartye argued that Blair County Assistant District Attorney Ilissa Zimmerman reached an agreement with him on Oct. 15, 2009, in which Rainelli entered no contest pleas to resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and public drunkenness in exchange for authorities not prosecuting Rainelli for his statements about the police.

Rainelli entered his plea on Dec. 21, 2009, and was placed on one-year probation for the no-contest pleas.

However, Sullivan said there was no such plea agreement regarding non-prosecution ever placed on the record.

“Because we have no record of any formal agreement relating to the present prosecution, the charges will not be dismissed based upon negotiations that never became part of a valid plea under the rules,” the judge stated.

In his petition asking dismissal of charges, Rainelli, through an attorney who previously represented him, contended criminal charges were filed against him in retaliation for “loudly,” “sometimes brashly” and “annoyingly” exercising his rights under the First Amendment.

Deputy Attorney General Glenn Parno retorted that the charges against Rainelli were not punishing him for exercising his free speech but to hold him liable for making statements to law enforcement officers that he knew were untrue.

Sullivan ruled that for Rainelli to charge a “vindictive or selective prosecution he would have to show others in the past had been prosecuted for similar conduct and the prosecution was based on impermissible grounds” and said there were no similar allegations.

The judge scheduled a status conference for April 25.

Charges initially were filed in 2010 but dismissed because Judge Hiram Carpenter ruled the District Attorney’s Office had a conflict of interest: Rainelli is a nephew of Blair County District Attorney Richard Consiglio.

The case then went to the Attorney General’s Office and a new set of charges was filed last year.

Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.