The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

October 10, 2013

Top cop’s hearing halts as pistol drops to floor


SUNBURY — By Michael Rubinkam

The Associated Press


GILBERTON — A hearing for a Pennsylvania police chief who made profanity-laced Internet videos about liberals and the Second Amendment was halted suddenly Thursday night after a handgun belonging to one of his supporters slid out of its holster and crashed onto the concrete floor.

The loaded semi-automatic handgun landed inches away from Gilberton Chief Mark Kessler and his attorney. It did not go off, but attorney Joseph Nahas said that he and other officials were concerned about the safety of everyone in the tiny, crowded meeting room at borough hall.

Nahas said the hearing will be continued at a nearby courthouse, where weapons are prohibited.

“To have what happened in this particular room made of concrete and steel, I think, could be fatal for many, many people,” he told the audience.

The supporter who dropped the weapon declined comment.

“It’s alarming,” Nahas said afterward. “I can’t conduct my job appropriately when handguns are being dropped on concrete.”

The gun incident marked an abrupt end to a hearing at which Kessler was fighting to save his job. Town officials have already voted to begin the process of firing him, but under due-process rules the chief is entitled to call witnesses at a public hearing.

Nahas has said borough council trumped up unrelated charges against Kessler, the only member of the town’s police force, to conceal its intent to fire him over the videos.

Kessler has said his much-watched Internet videos, in which he fired automatic weapons while using foul language, were intended to draw attention to the erosion of constitutional rights. The former coal miner has spoken at gun-rights rallies around the country.

Before it was adjourned, Thursday’s hearing focused on allegations that Kessler made improper use of a state purchasing program to buy discounted tires for his personal vehicle, and failed to submit crime reports as required under state law. Kessler denies he did anything wrong.

The borough’s attorney also introduced transcripts of Kessler’s Internet radio show, in which he made vulgar sexual references to borough council members, called one a drunk and threatened violence against another.

The attorney had the mayor, Mary Lou Hannon, read from the transcripts, then asked her whether it was conduct becoming a police officer.

“It’s unacceptable,” Hannon said.

Nahas had been cross-examining the mayor when the gun clattered to the floor behind him.

Surprised and then irritated, Nahas turned to the weapon’s bearded owner and said, “You gotta go!” The man left.

Nahas, the other attorneys and the hearing examiner then huddled privately before returning to announce the hearing’s adjournment.