Five-year battle over assault allegations ends with $100 fine

HOLLIDAYSBURG – A nearly five-year battle in which an Army veteran contended he was roughed up by Logan Township police – and the police claimed he was lying – came to an uneasy end Monday when a Blair County judge fined the veteran $100 for harassment.

“When I walk out of this courthouse, I’m not looking back,” said David D. Rainelli, Jr., 43, of Bellefonte who entered a no-contest plea to the harassment charge.

Entering a plea of no-contest means that the suspect is not admitting wrongdoing but is agreeing that there is enough evidence for a jury to find him guilty.

Logan Township Police Chief Ron Heller said he too was glad the marathon case was over, but Heller emphatically said, when asked about the plea, “It’s over. We had nothing to do with it [Rainelli’s injuries]. It’s over. My officers did not assault David Rainelli.”

Logan Township police were called to the Van Zandt VA Medical Center in Altoona on Oct. 27, 2008, because Rainelli was there and was allegedly intoxicated.

He resisted police, and he was handcuffed, but Heller said the only injury Rainelli received was a cut on the chin.

Rainelli claimed more serious injuries, including a damaged shoulder. He also claimed he was kicked and punched repeatedly.

He said the injuries occurred when Logan officers took him to the Blair County Prison.

Rainelli pleaded to simple assault, disorderly conduct and public drunkenness as a result of the incident at the VA hospital and was sentenced to a $50 fine and a year’s probation. Still he claimed assault charges should be brought against the police.

He brought in the FBI and Pennsylvania State Police and even attempted to file a private prosecution, which was rejected by his uncle, Blair County District Attorney Richard A. Consiglio.

Heller then investigated Rainelli’s complaints against the Logan department and called in state police for additional investigation.

The case over the assault allegations went though a plethora of phases. Judge Hiram A. Carpenter dropped the charges against Rainelli because they were initially filed through the Blair DA’s office – a conflict of interest because of the family relationship.

One of the attorneys for Rainelli claimed he had a constitutional right to criticize the police, but that was rejected by trial judge Timothy M. Sullivan.

On April 26, Rainelli rejected a plea offer from Deputy Attorney General Glenn Parno.

Sullivan called the case for jury selection on Monday morning.

Rainelli’s longtime attorney, Blair County Assistant Public Defender Joseph Hartye, recently left his employment in Blair County, which meant another assistant public defender, Ed Ferguson, was assigned to the Rainelli case.

Sullivan informed the attorneys there would be no further delays, even though Ferguson had the case for only a couple of weeks.

Prospective jurors were waiting in Sullivan’s courtroom for the selection process to begin when Ferguson and Parno began discussing the case.

Rainelli still wanted his jury trial, but that changed when the prosecution offered a deal in which two counts of unsworn falsification and four counts of false reports to law enforcement would be dismissed in exchange for the no-contest plea to the harassment charge.

Harassment, a summary charge, is among the least serious criminal offenses.

After meeting with his attorney, Rainelli agreed to the no-contest plea.

The conduct that led to the harassment charge came about because Rainelli told many people he was roughed up by Logan police officers on Oct. 27, 2008.

Rainelli will end up paying more than $400 in court costs in addition to his fine. Sullivan gave him a year to pay.

Rainelli is attending school and said he will soon begin a job.

After the hearing, he said he had no further comment.

Heller stated, “Like I said from Day 1, we did nothing to this man.”

The plea agreement contained an unusual clause in which both sides agreed not to file civil lawsuits.

Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.