To err is human; to forgive is judicial
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An Allegheny County Common Pleas judge has agreed with Carnegie Manager Stephen Vincenti that his use of the ladies restroom in the municipal building last spring was an innocent mistake.
Judge Robert C. Gallo found Mr. Vincenti not guilty of one count each of defiant trespass and disorderly conduct April 25 for using a second-floor ladies' restroom instead of the adjacent men's restroom on May 1, 2006.
Sarah L. Riccelli, of Hampton, who works in the building, but not for the borough, was in a restroom stall. She reported the incident to police, who issued the summary charges May 17.
District Justice Gary Zyra, of Scott, found Mr. Vincenti guilty of the offenses Aug. 14, but Mr. Vincenti appealed the citations, which each carry a $100 fine.
Joseph Alexander Paletta, Mr. Vincenti's attorney, said that he believes Judge Gallo was convinced of Mr. Vincenti's innocence.
"I think the judge very carefully followed all of the evidence and did in fact believe it was a mistake as opposed to a criminal act," said Mr. Paletta, who argued that "we are all human and we all make mistakes, but not every mistake should result in a crime or a civil action."
Bolstering Mr. Vincenti's case was the fact that he had been on the job as borough manager for only a month when the incident occurred and that he had never before been to the second-floor restroom area. Though the borough council chambers are on the second floor, his office and those of other administrators are on the first floor.
Also, the restrooms are in an angled corridor that has been dimly lit with somewhat confusing signage in that the ladies' room sign is not posted on the same wall as the restroom door. A storage room sits between the two restrooms.
At last week's appeal hearing, Judge Gallo questioned why Mrs. Riccelli's statement that Mr. Vincenti passed by her occupied restroom stall twice were not included in the police investigation report. He also wondered why the defiant trespass charge was filed because Mr. Vincenti was in his place of employment.
A relieved Mr. Vincenti, 50, said that he is glad the matter is over.
"I admitted my mistake from day one and offered to apologize, but was discouraged from doing so," he said, adding his thanks to all who offered prayers for him.
Testifying on his behalf at last week's appeal were the Rev. Bruce Nordeen, pastor of St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church in Carnegie, who has known Mr. Vincenti as a church member and treasurer for four years, and Carnegie Councilwoman Dorothy Kelly, who testified that the restroom corridor was poorly lit.
Mr. Vincenti said he is happy to get on with the business of running Carnegie.
"All along I've focused on the borough's work, but [now] I have renewed energy," he said.
First Published May 3, 2007 5:42 am