A suspended University of Pittsburgh police officer is expected to stand trial on charges that he held a knife to his son's throat and threatened to cut out his tongue.
Scott Kercher, 39, was held for trial today on charges of recklessly endangering another person and endangering the welfare of a child after a preliminary hearing before Magisterial District Judge David Barton. The judge dismissed a charge of simple assault.
Allegheny County police wrote in a criminal complaint that Officer Kercher's 8-year-old son said during a forensic interview that Officer Kercher held a knife near his mouth on March 25 and threatened to cut out his tongue, then placed the knife against his throat, leaving a mark.
They wrote that the boy said Officer Kercher slapped him because he refused to answer a question and then choked him. The boy "stated that Kercher was drinking approximately 8 beers and acting 'crazy,' " according to the complaint.
The complaint also says Officer Kercher choked his 6-year-old daughter, who was also in his Whitehall home at the time.
The allegations in the criminal complaint match some mentioned in an application for a temporary protection-from-abuse order filed by Officer Kercher's ex-wife a few weeks before their divorce was finalized in April.
WIlliam H. Difenderfer, the attorney representing Officer Kercher, said he thinks there is a strong likelihood they will win at trial because testimony from this morning's preliminary hearing included several inconsistencies compared with the material in the criminal complaint.
Mr. Difenderfer said that when he cross-examined the boy during the hearing, new information came to light. He said a slight wound that was attributed to the alleged acts turned out to be a brush burn the boy sustained while horsing around with his father.
Officer Kercher joined the Pitt police department in December and has been suspended without pay, according to school spokesman John Fedele, who declined to comment on the case.
Allegheny County police Lt. Jeffrey Korczyk said the case in some ways shocked officers who investigated it.
"It's something that I guess is shocking to us, but officers are no different than any other profession," the lieutenant said. "... but I think the important thing to note is that when we learn of these things we act upon them quickly. There's no preferential treatment."
Liz Navratil: email@example.com, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil.