The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

December 10, 2013

DA drops case after gun suppressed

By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer

FARRELL — The move was expected as a judge two weeks earlier had ruled that police illegally seized the gun.

Charles E. Pargo, 23, was arrested June 19 – he had been in jail since then – after police received an anonymous tip that two black men wearing red were seated in lawn chairs outside a home in the 1000 block of Wallis Avenue, Farrell, and were armed.

Southwest Mercer County Regional policemen said the home is in a high-crime area, particularly in terms of drug trafficking and discharge of firearms.

They testified that they had received several reports from in and around that address, including a suspect fleeing into the house and a group trying to break into it, both on June 12. Police also knew that a woman was the sole occupant of the house.

Sgt. Charles Rubano drove past the house following the anonymous call June 19 and saw two black men wearing red seated in lawn chairs, he testified at a Nov. 6 hearing.

Rubano parked his cruiser up the street, got out a rifle and called for backup.

The men went inside, police said.

After two other policeman responded, Rubano went to the front door and saw through a screen door a black man seated inside.

Rubano yelled several times for the man to come out while pointing his rifle at the man’s knees, and Pargo eventually complied.

Sgt. William Hite took Pargo to the ground, conducted a quick pat down and felt what he believed to be a gun in Pargo’s hip area.

Police pulled a .380-caliber semiautomatic handgun from a pair of shorts under Pargo’s exterior shorts and charged him with prohibited possession of a firearm – Pargo had past convictions for robbery and kidnapping in Ohio – and carrying a firearm without a license.

Pargo, represented by Assistant Public Defender Charles F. Gilchrest, argued the arrest was illegal because police did not have a warrant or probable cause or reasonable suspicion that a crime had occurred.

Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Christopher J. St. John agreed, saying in an opinion filed Nov. 15 there was “no credible evidence that Sgt. Rubano observed anything indicating that (Pargo) was involved in criminal activity.”

St. John suppressed any evidence obtained by police at the time Pargo was frisked and thereafter, including the gun.

In his order dismissing the case, Judge Robert G. Yeatts noted prosecutors admitted the suppression ruling sunk their case.