Veteran defense attorney to be charged in assault

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John L. Elash, a veteran Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney known for a sometimes volatile temper, will be charged with assaulting his friend's adult son Monday at a Downtown office.

The confrontation occurred shortly after noon at the Grant Building between Mr. Elash and Thomas C. DePasquale, the son of Mr. Elash's longtime friend and former law partner, James E. DePasquale.

Thomas DePasquale claimed that Mr. Elash walked into his father's office, choked him, bit him, tried to gouge his eyes and hit him repeatedly in the face following a dispute over a computer monitor. The semi-retired Mr. Elash maintains a desk and phone line at the firm.

Then, Mr. DePasquale said, Mr. Elash warned him that he would be "dead" the next time they saw each other, according to a police report. "I was scared to death. I thought he was trying to kill me," Mr. DePasquale, 36, of Plum said Tuesday.

Mr. DePasquale, the firm's officer manager, filed a report with Pittsburgh police that afternoon. The report states that he had a bruised cheek and several scratches on his face.

Police intend to charge Mr. Elash, 61, of Downtown with misdemeanor counts of simple assault and terroristic threats.

Mr. DePasquale said he was seen at UPMC Mercy for ankle and neck pains and facial bruising. Mr. Elash's attorney, Phillip DiLucente, described the encounter as a "family dispute" and a "huge misunderstanding." He described Mr. Elash as like an uncle to the younger Mr. DePasquale. He declined to provide his client's version of events. In response to questions about the incident during a brief interview at the Allegheny County Courthouse, Mr. Elash said, "Look at my face." He sported a slight mark under his eye.

Mr. Elash said he has represented various DePasquale family members in court proceedings in the past. That relationship worked both ways. In 1999, James DePasquale represented Mr. Elash when he was accused of exchanging words and blows with three Bethel Park police officers in a courtroom.

The outcome of that situation is unclear from court records, but the Allegheny County district attorney's office said the situation did not advance to trial.

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Sadie Gurman and Paula Reed Ward contributed. Jonathan D. Silver: jsilver@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1962. First Published May 23, 2012 12:00 AM


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