A preliminary hearing will be held today to determine whether there is enough evidence to hold state Sen. Robert Regola III for trial in connection with the suicide of a 14-year-old next-door neighbor who shot himself with the senator's 9 mm pistol in July.
Mr. Regola, 44, a first-term Republican senator from Hempfield, is charged with allowing his minor son Robert "Bobby" Regola IV, now 17, and Louis A.J. Farrell to have access to the gun eventually used in Louis' suicide. He also is accused of lying under oath about the gun's location and access in testimony during a two-day coroner's inquest in February into the death.
The senator has said he is innocent and will staunchly fight the charges.
The 1:30 p.m. hearing before District Judge James Albert in Greensburg will focus on the four felonies -- three counts of perjury and one count of allowing possession of a firearm by a minor -- and two misdemeanors, false swearing and reckless endangerment, that were filed against Mr. Regola on March 27.
The next day, Bobby Regola was charged with the misdemeanor crime of possession of his father's handgun. That case is being adjudicated in Juvenile Court, which is not open to the public.
In his findings for the coroner, hearing examiner Thomas Farrell -- no relation to the victim -- said the evidence indicated Louis committed suicide. Coroner Kenneth Bacha agreed and so ruled.
Louis' body was found by his father the morning of July 22 in the woods behind the family home. Next to him was Mr. Regola's 9 mm Taurus pistol. In the hours on July 21 before his death, Louis had access to the Regola home because he was dog-sitting for the senator, who was out of town.
Bobby Regola did not testify at the inquest, invoking his constitutional right against self-incrimination. According to the Regola family and testimony at the inquest, Bobby returned home the night of July 21 after a day at Idlewild Park with his girlfriend.
There, he said he found a door ajar, the refrigerator open and the gun missing. He called his father, who was at a function in Harrisburg, and told him what had happened. Mr. Regola asked his brother, Ronald, who lives on the same street, to check the house but he found nothing amiss and left.
Later, Bobby was the last person known to have spoken to his friend Louis in a five-minute phone call that began at 11:01 p.m. In a statement to state police, Bobby, 16 at the time, said Louis asked him in that phone call to meet him outside; he said he asked Louis to call him back when he was ready, but Louis never did so.
Michael A. Fuoco can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1968.