HARRISBURG – While an appellate court had ruled that Hermitage police improperly searched a man’s belongings during a robbery investigation, Mercer County District Attorney Robert G. Kochems said a detailed dissent by one of the three judges gives him hope that the state Supreme Court will agree to hear the case.

State Superior Court took a year to issue a 2-1 ruling in the case of Delano E. Perel, 35, of Youngstown.

The robbery occurred April 21, 2011, in a parking lot of Shenango Park Apartments. The victim reported that Perel was a former cellmate and they were together in a car when Perel said he needed to stop at his girlfriend’s apartment. When the victim pulled into the parking lot, Perel told him to “run it,” slang for “give me your money,” and the victim saw a handgun protruding from Perel’s leather bag.

The victim turned over $100 and Perel left with the bag and went into an apartment.

Perel and his girlfriend drove away and police caught up with them in the 2300 block of South Hermitage Road, arresting Perel and finding marijuana on him.

Perel’s girlfriend gave police permission to search her apartment in the 1400 block of Parke Drive, and police seized a leather bag containing marijuana, a handgun and ammunition and two pieces of luggage that contained men’s clothing and a receipt with Perel’s name on it.

Perel filed a motion to suppress evidence on the basis that police lacked the authority to search the bag and luggage. Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Thomas R. Dobson disagreed and denied the motion.

Because Perel faced a charge of prohibited possession of a firearm and other charges, that charge was severed from the others for separate trials. The move is made so his criminal record would be considered only by the jury that would decide the firearm charge. Criminal records – which in Perel’s case included multiple firearms violations – are considered to make a jury more likely to convict and courts have deemed their unnecessary disclosure unfair.

Perel was found guilty of the firearms charge, and, in a separate hearing, pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of 3 ounces of marijuana. Judge Christopher J. St. John sentenced Perel March 25, 2013, to 6 to 15 years in jail.

Perel appealed the suppression decision.

Superior Court judges Jack A. Panella and David N. Wecht said Perel had an expectation of privacy for his bags, giving the example that people routinely carry opaque purses, backpacks and briefcases to keep people from seeing inside them.

The judges added that there was no evidence Perel’s girlfriend had been given access to the bags or that her authority to grant a search of her apartment included his bags.

“These items, as a matter of common sense, necessarily command a high expectation of privacy,” Wecht said in a 24-page opinion.

In her dissent, Judge Judith Ference Olson agreed the search was illegal, but argued that suppression was not the appropriate remedy. In a 20-page opinion, she said police had probable cause to get a search warrant to search the bags. If they had obtained the warrant, they would have discovered the contraband, making the discovery inevitable.

“Delano Perel’s appeal on a suppression issue was granted by the Superior Court by a 2-1 vote with a very complete dissenting opinion that we agree with and so are planning to petition the Supreme Court for permission to appeal,” Kochems said.

The appeal only affects Perel’s firearm charge, for which he was sentenced to 5 to 10 years in prison. The guilty plea to possession with intent to deliver stands, along with its sentence of 1 to 5 years in prison.

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