Hearings delayed for 3 men charged in Rostraver home invasion
Preliminary hearings were delayed Monday for three men accused in a home invasion involving a 91-year-old Rostraver woman.
However, one of the defendants did not return quietly to jail to await his next day in court.
The three appeared before Magisterial District Judge Charles Christner in West Newton.
One suspect, Branddon Danilchak, 27, of Donora was prepared to waive his right to a hearing.
However, his attorney, Jeffrey Weinberg, asked Christner to delay the action to next week.
The request came after co-defendants Lamont “Tego” Dixon of Donora and Gregory Howard of Monessen appeared in court without attorneys.
Christner rescheduled their hearings for 9 a.m. Dec. 1.
Each is charged with robbery, criminal conspiracy, unlawful restraint, aggravated assault, theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property and simple assault.
The trio allegedly entered the German Street home of Frances “Fannie” Tekavec in Rostraver’s Collinsburg section on Oct. 21.
In the alleged incident, Tekavec suffered a fractured vertebra as she was shoved against her refrigerator and to the floor.
She subsequently underwent surgery at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh.
Dixon allegedly threatened Tekavec with a knife as Howard and Danilchak searched the residence, police said.
Before the three left, Tekavec’s hands and feet were tied and she was left on her bed, according to court documents. After about 20 minutes, she managed to free herself and call police.
The suspects allegedly made off with $20,000 in jewelry and $928 in cash, according to Rostraver police Officer Michael J. Sethman.
No attorney needed?
Howard opposed the delay.
“I have a right to defend myself,” Howard told Christner. “I’m highly qualified to represent myself.”
Christner asked Howard about his education level and whether he attended law school.
“I went to college,” said Howard, who asked Christner if he had attended law school.
“I’m not a lawyer; you aren’t either. I want to represent myself, and I want a hearing today. These are serious charges. No one wants to touch this case. We’re not going to play reindeer games here.
“I’m representing myself.”
“We’ll see about that,” Christner replied. “Mr. Howard, the public defender has a conflict of interest and cannot represent you.
“I’m only doing what is in your best interest. You’re not qualified to raise issues on your own. It would get sloppy. At least have someone standing behind you.”
Howard did not back down.
“Well, I feel this way … I think you are a conflict of interest,” Howard said. “By postponing this hearing, you’re keeping me in jail. I’m very sick, I have doctor appointments to go to and a home. … This is very serious, and this is not a joke.”
Howard called the process a “kangaroo court.”
“Your motion is denied,” said Christner, his voice rising. “This is not your show. I want someone standing behind you. I’m only going to have one hearing.”
Christner told Westmoreland County Assistant District Attorney Barbara Jollie he wanted an additional prosecutor sent to his court Monday to handle other cases.
“Let’s get another DA in here so we can get the other stuff out of the way and handle this one separately,” Christner said.
Dixon’s hearing was postponed because he did not submit a request for representation by a public defender.
He was being housed in the Washington County Correctional Facility on another case. Dixon was sent to the Westmoreland County Prison, where he will be held pending his preliminary hearing.
Dixon claimed he was never at Tekavec’s residence. He said that if he had been involved, he would feel badly about the victim and her injuries.
“I just want to know who is going to represent me,” Dixon said in court. “This is crazy as hell, man.”
Outside Christner’s office, Howard claimed innocence.
“I had nothing to do with this,” Howard said. “I don’t know why I was arrested. … I think the police have something against me or something. I don’t know. It’s like a kangaroo court in there. I can represent myself and I will.”
Jeremy Sellew is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.