Onetime head of Pagans motorcycle club, Hempfield resident appeals drug conviction |

Onetime head of Pagans motorcycle club, Hempfield resident appeals drug conviction

Rich Cholodofsky

The former head of the Pagans outlaw motorcycle club, who is serving an 80-month prison sentence for drug possession, wants his conviction to be overturned, claiming it was based on an illegal search of his Hempfield home.

In court documents filed this week, the lawyer for Dennis “Rooster” Katona, 48, filed an appeal in which he argued police improperly executed a search warrant in 2011 and that a judge erred when she failed to exclude evidence collected in the raid.

Katona was charged in June 2011 after police searched his home and found cocaine and methamphetamine valued at about $20,000, police said.

The search turned up nearly $4,000 and a document indicating who owed Katona money, according to court records.

In November, Katona was convicted of drug offenses in a brief non-jury trial before Westmoreland County Judge Debra Pezze. No evidence was presented during the trial, because the defense and prosecution agreed to a set of facts that would have been presented in the case.

Pezze immediately sentenced Katona to serve 40 to 80 months in prison.

In the appeal, Katona contends that evidence was based on an improper search that lacked probable cause.

“Specifically, the drugs in question were found in closed containers in the bedroom of Dennis and Sherri Katona on the second floor of the house,” wrote defense attorney Paul Boas. “No evidence was presented as to when the drugs were placed in the bedroom and by whom.”

The question as to who possessed the drugs was basis for a defense request to bar from evidence the results of the search, Boas said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or [email protected].

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