A single simple assault charge was held for court Tuesday in the case of a Leetsdale restaurant owner accused of punching a former employee in the face and grabbing his neck.
Two counts of aggravated assault and a charge of reckless endangerment were withdrawn against Angus K. Peterkin, 55, of Buhlmont Drive prior to the preliminary hearing in Leetsdale District Court.
Allegheny County Assistant District Attorney Robert Heister amended the assault charges filed Oct. 1 to a single count of simple assault. In addition, Peterkin also faced one count of providing false reports to law enforcement, but Judge Robert Ford later dismissed that charge.
According to a criminal complaint, Peterkin, owner of Azul Bar y Cantina, fired Richard Grabowski on Sept. 12 and told him not to return after they argued inside the restaurant.
Grabowski, 20, testified Tuesday that he returned to the neighborhood the following night to visit a friend at Marroni’s Lounge about a block from Azul’s. Grabowski said he didn't find his friend at the bar, so he stopped by the employee parking lot across the street from Azul’s to write a note to leave on another friend’s car.
He stopped back at Marroni’s once more, before Grabowski said he started walking back to his car parked on Broad Street. That's when he said Peterkin walked up and attacked him on the public sidewalk.
Grabowski testified that Peterkin began shouting at him before he punched him in the face and side of head, leaving a ringing noise in his left ear. He said Peterkin never gave a reason for striking him, except to say, “I told you never to be here again,” Grabowski testified.
According to the criminal complaint, Peterkin asked a passerby to call police because Grabowski was trespassing on his property. The passerby then warned Grabowski to leave the area.
Peterkin’s attorney, Steven Townsend of Pittsburgh said his client had a right to defend his property and that Grabowski’s testimony of where the altercation occurred was inconsistent with the police report, which states that Peterkin confronted Grabowski in his employee parking lot.
Heister said the circumstances do not fall under the new Castle Doctrine law in Pennsylvania—a law which expands a homeowner's right to use lethal force for protection. He argued that many of Townsend’s questions were beyond the scope of the preliminary hearing and irrelevant.
Townsend disagreed. “He’s the one who’s given the statement to police that’s completely inconsistent to what he’s testified to,” Townsend said.
Grabowski testified that he was evaluated by paramedics at the police station afterward and was said to be fine.
Leetsdale police Sgt. William Dreyer said the investigation led to a charge of false reports against Peterkin because he gave differing oral and written statements. Dreyer said Peterkin altered his story in a written statement to say he was walking employees out of work when he saw Grabowski, although in his earlier account to police he said he instructed a waitress to keep everyone inside the restaurant and took matters into his own hands, he said.
Townsend called for the judge to dismiss the case against Peterkin, who appeared in court, but did not testify. The false reports charge was dismissed, and the simple assault charge held for court.
After the hearing, Townsend reiterated that it was Grabowski who changed his story from what he initially told police.
“That’s what happens when you tell lies,” Townsend said. “You can’t keep it straight.”