Regola's Legal Defense Fund Totals $14,225

Article excerpt

State Sen. Bob Regola has gotten a little help from his friends to defend himself and his teenage son against criminal charges stemming from the death of a neighbor boy who was fatally shot with the senator's handgun.

A legal defense fund, set up last spring by Hempfield resident Brad Mellor, has raised more than $14,000 to pay attorneys representing the first-term Republican from Hempfield and his son.

Sen. Regola, 45, of Hempfield is charged with felony perjury and firearms counts and misdemeanor offenses of false swearing and reckless endangerment.

He allegedly gave authorities conflicting statements about how he stored the 9 mm Taurus pistol used in the shooting of Louis Farrell, 14, in July 2006. Farrell's body was found in his backyard, next door to the Regola home. Coroner Kenneth Bacha ruled that the gunshot wound was self-inflicted.

Regola is accused of lying during an inquest last March, denying that his son, Robert "Bobby" Regola IV, now 18, kept the weapon in his room. The senator's son was later adjudicated delinquent of a misdemeanor gun offense in juvenile court.

If convicted of a felony offense, Regola would be disqualified from serving in the Senate.

Regola said Tuesday that he appreciated the contributions but declined to reveal the extent of his legal bills.

"I have no role in soliciting donations to this fund," Regola said. "The money goes in, and Brad pays the bills. Hopefully, a lot more money will come and pay for these bills."

Mellor, a sportsman who supports gun ownership rights and works as an attorney in Pittsburgh, created the fund last June, about a month after criminal charges were filed against Regola.

The defense fund has secured 27 donations from 26 sources totaling $14,225.

"I wanted to provide a vehicle for people to support the senator," Mellor said. "It's been word of mouth, through phone calls. There is no target amount, because with legal fees you don't know what they are going to be."

The largest donor is the Harrisburg lobbying firm of Malady & Wooten, which in October gave $2,000. The list of donors includes a group of lobbyists as well as several Republican state lawmakers, including Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson County; Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware County; and Sen. Don White, R-Indiana County.

"From what I can see, the district attorney down there is on a mission and certainly Bob's being put to the test. He's singling a guy out," Scarnati said. "At the end of the day we'll have to review what happened and what motivated this district attorney. …