The attorney for a former Woodland Hills High School student who recorded his principal making threatening remarks withdrew a private criminal complaint against the school leader.
However, Todd Hollis did not initially deem it necessary to appear in court and inform the presiding judge of his decision to back out of the case.
Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Manning was irritated when Hollis failed to appear in court Thursday to withdraw his petition. Manning had a staff member call Hollis, and the attorney showed up an hour later.
The hearing stemmed from Hollis’ petition to revisit Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.’s decision not to criminally charge the principal, Kevin Murray.
In the recordings, which were captured by the teen on his phone in April and released in late November, Murray can be heard telling the student, “I’ll punch you right in your face, dude,” and “I’ll knock your (expletive) teeth down your throat.”
In another portion of the recording, Murray tells the special education student he would prevail in court.
“When we go down to court, it’s your word versus mine,” Murray said in the recording. “And mine wins every time.”
It’s illegal in Pennsylvania to record someone without permission unless there is not an expectation of privacy.
Murray was placed on paid leave Nov. 30 after the audio surfaced and stayed away from the school during criminal and administrative investigations. He returned to work Jan. 18.
Asked Thursday why he dropped his petition, Hollis said, “We believe it’s in the best interest of my client to move forward.”
The teen is not charged with a crime for recording Murray. However, he is accused of violating Pennsylvania’s wiretap law because of an unrelated recording authorities said he made in September during a meeting with school officials that was posted on social media. A preliminary hearing on those charges is scheduled for Feb. 27 in Allegheny County Juvenile Court.
“My client has a pending criminal complaint and a civil matter pending,” Hollis said. “We will focus our resources on those goals.”
Staff writer Chris Togneri contributed. Ben Schmitt is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7991 or [email protected].