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Judge arrested on weapon charge


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By Michael Hasch
Thursday, November 30, 2006

Senior District Judge Donald H. Presutti was arrested Wednesday when police said he was found carrying a loaded, concealed handgun in West View.

Presutti, 59, of Kilbuck, was arrested after he returned to West View Auto Body shop on Perry Highway, where he had been involved in an argument with his father-in-law about an hour earlier, said West View police Chief Charles Holtgraver.

The father-in-law was not there when Presutti arrived, Holtgraver said.

The judge, who told police he did not have a permit to carry the gun, made no threats and did not harm anyone, said the police chief.

Presutti was arraigned before District Judge Richard G. Opiela in Night Court on a felony charge of carrying a concealed weapon without a license. Presutti was released on $10,000 unsecured bond to await a preliminary hearing.

Presutti, a lawyer, served for many years as the district judge in the magisterial district that covers Avalon, Bellevue, Ben Avon, Ben Avon Heights, Emsworth, Kilbuck and Ohio Township.

Since his retirement in January, he has been serving as a senior district judge who works as needed at any district judge's office in Allegheny County. He presided over arraignments Tuesday in Night Court.

Holtgraver said police initially were called to the auto-body shop about 3 p.m. yesterday, when Presutti and his father-in-law were arguing about money in the parking lot. Both men told officers they wanted a report made of the incident, but neither was arrested nor cited.

Presutti's car was at the auto body shop for repairs, but it is not known why his father-in-law was there, said Holtgraver, who did not release the name of the father-in-law.

Less than an hour later, police received a call from Presutti's wife, saying he was returning to the auto body shop with a gun, according to court documents.

When officers arrived, Presutti told them he returned to pick up his car. The officers then told him about the phone call and Presutti admitted carrying the gun, Holtgraver said.

The judge pulled out the handgun and gave it to the officers. The weapon was cocked, and there was a live round in the chamber, Holtgraver said.

Presutti told the officers he brought the gun to the auto body shop to protect himself and later said he was permitted to carry the weapon because he is a district judge, Holtgraver said.

Police could not find anything in the Pennsylvania Crimes Code that would exempt Presutti from having to obtain a permit for the weapon, Holtgraver said. If they find Presutti was carrying the gun legally, charges will be withdrawn, said the police chief.

Michael Manko, a spokesman for District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., said preliminary research indicates that jurists are not exempt from having to obtain a permit to carry firearms.

Michael Hasch can be reached at or (412) 320-7820.

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