SUNBURY — A Northumberland County Judge denied a defense motion to dismiss gun charges against a witness in a 2017 homicide.
On Thursday, Northumberland County President Judge Charles Saylor said Robert Villari Jr., 33, of Coal Township, has been given multiple chances when released on bail but has failed to show up to court proceedings when free. Saylor also issued last year a judicial emergency due to COVID-19, suspending violations for Rule 600.
"At some point enough is enough," Saylor said.
Defense Attorney Richard Feudale said his client, who has been jailed since September 2017, should be released or have the case dismissed based on Rule 600. Rule 600 is the Pennsylvania Criminal Code statute governing speedy trials. The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Pennsylvania Constitution guarantees individuals charged with a crime the right to a speedy and fair trial.
According to Rule 600, the commonwealth must bring a criminal defendant to trial within 365 days of when charges are filed. If the commonwealth does not do that and fails to exercise “due diligence,” the charges against the defendant can be dismissed with prejudice against the commonwealth. If a criminal defendant is held in pretrial incarceration for a period exceeding 180 days, they are entitled to immediate release on nominal bail of $1.
Witnesses Villari and David Brown, 37, of Ashland, who is serving a state sentence for an unrelated matter, told police that Brian Heffner, 39, fired the gun that killed Sean Maschal, 33, of Mount Carmel, in Mount Carmel Township on Sept. 12, 2017, according to a criminal complaint. Maschal was found the next day, off Route 901 in a wooded section of Mount Carmel Township, east of Locust Gap. Mount Carmel Township Police arrested Heffner on April 12, 2018, and charged him with 14 counts, including homicide, aggravated assault and robbery.
Villari is not charged in the homicide, but, according to the police report, was "present during the time a crime had been committed involving a handgun in Mount Carmel Township" on Sept. 12, 2017, and assisted in getting rid of the gun, bullets and magazine. Villari is charged with two felony counts of owning a firearm as a convicted felon and conspiracy and two misdemeanor counts of tampering with evidence and obstructing justice.
The cases of Brown and Heffner are combined.