Police Toss Original Notes in Regola Case
Peirce, Paul, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
While attorneys for Sen. Bob Regola maintain the destruction of original notes taken by state police after the 2006 death of his teenage neighbor will be instrumental in his defense of perjury charges, police officials say the practice is common.
"There's really nothing to be gained with retaining those notes. Once you transpose handwritten notes into a typewritten police report, you throw away the original notes. ...That's been my experience," said Plum police Chief Frank Monaco.
"The courts have consistently upheld the practice. Could you imagine if you had to store both all the handwritten notes plus the typewritten police reports, how much space that would require?" said Monaco, a 32-year state police veteran. He retired last August as commander for 15 Southwestern Pennsylvania counties.
Regola, 45, is accused of perjury, reckless endangerment and a gun offense for allegedly allowing his teenage son, Robert "Bobby" Regola IV, access to a gun and lying about it.
On Jan. 23, Regola's attorneys, Duke George and Charles Porter, asked Westmoreland Judge John E. Blahovec to dismiss the case. They complained to reporters afterward that police had destroyed handwritten notes from their first interviews with Regola on July 22, 2006, about the shooting death of Louis Farrell, his 14-year- old Hempfield neighbor.
George contends that District Attorney John Peck cannot prove a perjury case without the original notes and maintains that will be part of the senator's defense.
"The original notes are gone, so there is no point of reference available for cross-examination of what was used as a basis for preparing the typewritten police report. It places the defense at a great disadvantage," George said.
"While the original notes are valuable in every case, in a perjury case they are that much more important. And in this particular case you are talking about seasoned officers destroying notes," George said.
Farrell was found dead on July 22, 2006, in the woods behind his home with a gunshot wound to the head from a 9 mm Taurus handgun owned by Regola. After an inquest, Coroner Ken Bacha concluded that Farrell committed suicide.
Peck contends that in interviews that day, Regola told troopers that the gun Farrell used had been kept in the bedroom of his son, who was then 16. Farrell had access to the home because he had been feeding the Regolas' dogs while the senator and his wife were in Harrisburg.
Police allege Regola changed his story at the inquest, testifying it was stored under his own bed.
George and Porter maintain that without the original police notes there is no evidence proving Regola kept the gun elsewhere.
State police spokesman Cpl. Linette Quinn said there is no regulation requiring troopers to preserve original handwritten notes once they are transcribed into a typewritten report.
"That's why we prepare the reports," Quinn said.
Rostraver police Chief Greg Resetar, who is president of the Westmoreland County Police Chiefs' Association, said police commonly destroy their notes after drafting a formal report.
"That's the way it's been done. As the years go by, sometimes before cases come to trial, the typewritten reports are so much easier to maintain and read down the road," Resetar said. …