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-- THE ARCHIVE --


UNITED STATES

Illicit CP - February 2003



Tribune-Review, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 21 February 2003

Plea reached in student paddling case

By Bob Stiles
Tribune-Review

Two Penn-Trafford High School seniors reached a plea agreement Thursday that would give them probation and drop more serious charges in the alleged kidnapping and paddling of freshmen.

Penn-Trafford High School Seniors Charles Brian Dominy (left) and Dustin Roberts, both 18 and of Penn Borough, walk into the Jeannette office of District Justice Charles Conway on Thursday.

S.C. Spangler/Tribune-Review

Dustin Roberts and Charles Brian Dominy, both 18 and of Penn Borough, waived their rights to preliminary hearings yesterday before visiting District Justice Charles Conway in Jeannette.

Defense attorneys David Caruthers and Brian Aston said the agreements call for the two seniors to plead guilty to lesser offenses, such as simple assault and terroristic threats, in exchange for having the more serious charges of kidnapping and unlawful restraint dropped. The terms of probation would be for two years and include 25 hours of community service, the attorneys said.

The agreements must be accepted by a Westmoreland County judge before they can take effect.

Manor Patrolman Nick Dreistadt, the arresting officer, alleged that in October and January, Roberts and Dominy used either a Ping-Pong paddle or 2-by-4 piece of lumber on the alleged victims - four freshmen at the same school and a Penn Middle School eighth-grader, who is a brother of one of the ninth-graders.

In three cases, the victims told police they were forced into Dominy's vehicle and then taken to Roberts' home at 706 N. Railroad St., where the paddling occurred. During at least one of these episodes, the seniors told the younger students that they were being paddled "because they were freshmen," police said in an affidavit of probable cause.

The incidents were focused on Penn-Trafford ninth-graders who lived in Penn. Roberts and Dominy tried to encourage at least one other senior living in the borough to take part, but that student refused, police said.

Authorities said they were contacted after the "kids really got scared" when the piece of lumber was substituted after the table-tennis paddle broke in an earlier incident.

Yesterday, Dreistadt said the families of all the victims agreed to the terms of the plea bargain. No family members wanted to talk about the case afterward.

"They just didn't feel the kids should do state time," he said, referring to the possible sentence for the more serious charges. "They're looking to give them a second chance."

The families talked about the agreement with Dreistadt and Assistant District Attorney Chris Nichols for several minutes before it was reached.

Nichols said the families' willingness to drop the more serious offenses was important.

"I'm satisfied with it," he said of the agreement. "And most important, the victims are in agreement with it."

As part of the terms, Roberts and Dominy - as well as their friends - are to stay away from the four freshmen and middle-school student.

Caruthers and Aston claimed their clients were doing what older students have done to younger ones for decades. Police said the paddling did not appear to be related to any sporting or other programs in Penn-Trafford.

"I think the story all along, from what I understand, was this was a hazing ritual that had been committed to them in the past," Caruthers said. "Sometimes, when you do goofy things as kids, it can get out of hand. I think that's what happened here."

Aston said hazing was around when he was a teenager, but wasn't reported to police. That appears to be different now, he said.

"By today's standards, I guess you call the police and end up at the magistrate's," he said.

Images and text copyright 2003 by The Tribune-Review Publishing Co.



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