Downtown Recognition Awards
Fall 2014 Allegheny Together, Downtown Homestead, Recognition Awards
We are pleased to recognize Attorney Mark A. Smith as a Downtown Recognition Recipient. Attorney Smith, located at 215 East 8th Avenue, Homestead, specializes in Personal Injury and Medical Malpractice cases involving catastrophic injuries, car accidents, wrongful deaths, and nursing home negligence.
Mark was born and raised in the Munhall, Homestead area of Pittsburgh. Through hard work and diligence he graduated Duquesne University School of Law in 2002. He was elected by his colleagues and inducted into the Academy of Trial Lawyers of Allegheny County in October, 2013. The Academy is limited to only 250 lawyers in Allegheny County who have excelled in trial work and who are dedicated to protecting the community’s right to a jury trial in civil cases. The election process is rigorous and inclusion in the Academy is by invitation only.
Attorney Mark Smith currently has offices in Homestead, downtown Pittsburgh, and Greensburg. If you are looking for someone to represent you in his areas of expertise, please call 412-567-9598.
Fox Chapel Doctor Accused of Touching Patients Inappropriately
July 30, 2013 9:43 pm By Lexi Belculfine / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A primary care physician with four area practices was charged with indecent assault and harassment Tuesday after two female patients said he touched them inappropriately.
Allegheny County police warned there may be more victims among the patients of Raja Chakrapani, 59, of Fox Chapel who faces four misdemeanor counts of indecent assault and two harassment charges.
White Oak and Allegheny County police began investigating the private practice physician when the two women came forward to report inappropriate touching and rubbing during office visits between August 2012 and last month at R C Medical Associates in White Oak, county police general investigations Lt. Jeffrey Korczyk said.
The doctor also has offices in Swissvale, Turtle Creek and West Mifflin. A police affadavit states Dr. Chakrapani’s fifth office is at UPMC Mercy.
Both women reported that Dr. Chakrapani rubbed his penis on their bodies for several minutes without consent while they were on the exam table and touched them inappropriately in other areas on multiple occasions.
All of the incidents occurred when the victims were alone with Dr. Chakrapani in the exam room. Lt. Korczyk said his arrest has been reported to the Pennsylvania medical board. Officials are asking patients and staff who may have been assaulted to contact police.
Ross First Amendment Case Goes to Jury
Tuesday, May 1, 2012, 12:10 p.m. By Brian Bowling / Tribune-Review
The Constitution gives citizens the right to petition the government, but that’s not an “unfettered” right to tie up a government meeting, an attorney representing Ross and one of its commissioners argued today in closing arguments in a federal First Amendment case.
The eight-member jury is scheduled to begin deliberations this afternoon.
William Ansell of Ross is suing the township and Ross Commissioner Daniel DeMarco, who ordered him removed from a May 11, 2009, commission meeting before he could talk about how oversized election signs were blocking motorists’ view of oncoming traffic at intersections.
Edmond Joyal, the attorney for DeMarco and the township, argued that the evidence shows Ansell was ejected because he was disrupting the meeting, not because of what he wanted to talk about.
“(DeMarco) had no idea what he was going to talk about,” Joyal said.
Mark Smith, the lawyer for Ansell, said nothing in the transcript shows that Ansell was disrupting the meeting.
DeMarco testified Monday that he closed the public comment part of the meeting because Ansell’s brother, Robert, had used up both his five minutes and the five minutes allotted to his brother. The transcript shows that when Robert Ansell asked for his brother’s five minutes, DeMarco said no and pointed to William Ansell, telling him it was his time to talk, Joyal said.
“He was ready to hear him,” Joyal said. “He tried to stop the brother from talking, but the brother kept talking.”
William Ansell made no effort to claim the podium or otherwise keep his brother from using his minutes, Joyal argued.
Smith argued that Joyal was trying to “spin” the facts. Nowhere in the transcript does DeMarco tell William Ansell that his brother had used up his minutes or otherwise indicate that Ansell wouldn’t be allowed to talk after his brother finished, Smith said.
Although the township tried to bring up previous altercations between the Ansell brothers and township officials as justification for preventing William Ansell from speaking, that doesn’t pass Constitutional muster, Smith said.
“Smearing the plaintiff and smearing his brother is not a defense,” Smith said.
If a citizen has a legitimate concern, the government doesn’t get to decide whether it’s going to listen to that concern, he told jurors.
Trial Begins for Ross Man’s First Amendment Lawsuit
Monday, April 30, 2012, 3:14 p.m. By Brian Bowling / TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Ross Commissioner Daniel DeMarco and the township violated a resident’s First Amendment rights by kicking him out of a 2009 public meeting when he tried to speak, a lawyer for the man told a federal jury today.
William Ansell was escorted out of the meeting by a police officer because of what he was going to say, said lawyer Mark Smith.
“When the government ignores its citizens and stops them from speaking, it’s dangerous,” he said during opening arguments in the civil trial.
Edmond Joyal, the lawyer representing DeMarco and the township, told jurors that DeMarco and other commissioners let Ansell and his brother, Robert Ansell, speak at nine earlier public meetings and also in private meetings with individual commissioners over what was, essentially, a dispute between William Ansell and one of his neighbors.
The commissioners let the brothers speak even when they didn’t call ahead to get on the meeting agenda and even after a meeting in which one of the brothers made sweeping allegations of corruption among the police, judges and township officials.
“Even after that, Robert and William Ansell were allowed to come back time and time again,” Joyal said.
DeMarco testified today that he didn’t let William Ansell speak in the first public comment period of the May 11, 2009, meeting because Robert Ansell, who already had gone over his allotted five minutes, asked for his brother’s minutes.
“He walked away. No one else approached the podium. I moved along (on the agenda),” DeMarco said.
Robert Ansell testified that his brother was at the podium when DeMarco ordered a police officer to remove him from the meeting. Neither he or his brother have gone to another township meeting since then, he said.
“He was scared to speak out,” Ansell said. “He was afraid that he would be arrested if he came back in.”
Trial Begins in Ross Man’s Free-Speech Lawsuit Against Township
April 30, 2012 1:06 pm By Rich Lord / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A Ross man whose troubles with police, anger at leaf blowing and disputes over his large Christmas light display spurred a lengthy public feud with local officials was in federal court today for the first day of trial in his lawsuit against a commissioner and the township.
William Ansell sued in 2009, alleging years of disputes with Ross. He said police improperly entered his home and arrested him, public works employees blew leaves into his yard, and commissioners passed an ordinance banning parking on a stretch of Fairley Road, where he lived in a house owned by his brother, Robert Ansell.
He also accused township officials of prompting journalists to report unfavorably about his Christmas light display, which had prompted traffic complaints.
The trial before U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab is narrowly focused on a 2009 incident in which both Ansell brothers attended a Ross commissioners meeting but only Robert was able to speak.
Attorney Mark Smith said that after Robert Ansell spoke during a public comment portion of the meeting, Ross Commissioner Dan DeMarco did not allow William Ansell to follow, assuming he’d parrot the same complaints.
Government, he told an eight-person jury, “is never allowed to stop a person from speaking to the government because they don’t like or agree with the person’s views, or because of who the person is.”
Attorney Edmond Joyal, representing Ross, said the Ansell brothers were regular speakers at meetings, with Robert frequently taking up more than his allotted five minutes. He said they had also been granted private audiences with officials.
He said that Robert Ansell wrote a letter to township officials saying he and his brother would “get up here and scream and take 20 to 25 minutes” at meetings. But only when they became “disruptive” did Mr. DeMarco limit their opportunity to speak at the one meeting that is the subject of the trial.
Mr. Ansell has sought a declaration that his free speech rights were violated by the township, plus monetary damages.
The trial is expected to take two days.
Man Charged With Recording Women At Tanning Salon Sentenced
GREENSBURG (KDKA), Friday, February 3, 2012
A Westmoreland County man is now headed to prison after pleading guilty to videotaping at least 70 women as they got undressed inside of a tanning salon. The videos were then posted on the internet where they were discovered by the victims’ family and friends.
More than 40 victims along with about 25 family members packed into a courtroom for today’s sentencing at the Westmoreland County Courthouse.
It was an emotionally charged day. Some were in tears – others angry – as they sat in the same room as the man who violated them.
Macklin had something to say to the victims. “That I’m sorry for my actions,” Macklin said. “… I feel horrible for what I’ve done.”
The apology came after Macklin was sentenced to seven to 20 years in prison.
Back in 2006, Macklin crawled into the ceiling at Sunkissed Tanning in East Huntingdon and videotaped dozens of women.
He then posted the videos on countless pornographic websites and in some cases identified the victims using photos on MySpace.
Because of the nature of the crime, KDKA is not identifying the victims. In court toda, five of the victims gave impact statements to the judge.
“I will never know when in public if people I see or know have seen these videos. And these videos are never going away,” one victim said.
Also taking the stand was Elizabeth Lodovico, the former owner of Tropics Tanning Salon in Export, who says she caught Macklin taping a woman in her salon nearly 10 years ago, but police never filed charges.
She says police encouraged her to let it go, that Macklin was leaving for the military and he was a young kid that made a mistake.
Lodovico said no further action was taken.
Hearing that Macklin had been caught videotaping women in the past was something heard for the first time today that shocked even the judge.
It has many now wondering if there could be even more unknowing victims across the county.
88 Women Join Suit Against East Huntingdon Tanning Salon
TRIBUNE-REVIEW, Saturday, March 26, 2011
Eight more women filed lawsuits this week related to nude videos allegedly taken of them at an East Huntingdon salon and posted on pornographic websites.
The suits, filed on Thursday, bring the number of cases in Westmoreland County to 23.
All eight of the cases name Sunkissed Tanning and Spa and its owner, Toni Tomei, as defendants.
One of the cases identifies Jesse Macklin, the Jeannette man accused of secretly videotaping 73 girls and women, as a defendant.
Macklin, 28, waived his right to a preliminary hearing Wednesday on 242 counts of burglary, distributing child pornography, possession of child pornography, sexual abuse of children, selling sexual materials, criminal trespass and invasion of privacy.
State police, who arrested Macklin last week, allege he spent 10 to 11 hours a day crawling above a drop ceiling at the salon to videotape the women as they were undressed.
Investigators have said that nobody from the salon was linked to Macklin.
Yet, seven of the women who filed suits Thursday, represented by Connellsville attorney Mark Brooks, accuse Tomei of invasion of privacy, negligence and outrageous conduct.
Those plaintiffs include Brittany N. Clawson, Alysia M. Swank, Chelsea A. Wettgen and Codie L. Howard of Mt. Pleasant Township; Karlie M. Hunt of Hempfield; Danell Renay Primus of South Connellsville; and Erika L. Leasure of the Marshall-Shadeland neighborhood of Pittsburgh.
Attorney Mark A. Smith, representing Heather A. Falcone, no address listed, filed a notice to sue Tomei, the salon and Macklin, but did not file a complaint outlining his client’s allegations.
In responses last week to the first 11 cases filed by Brooks, Tomei’s attorney, Thomas Doyle, denies any liability on her behalf and requests the dismissal of the suits.
Doyle did not return a message Friday requesting comment.
Salon Videos to Spur Another Suit
TRIBUNE-REVIEW, Saturday, March 19, 2011
The owners of an East Huntingdon shopping plaza and a tanning salon where police said 73 girls and women were secretly videotaped while changing clothes need to explain how a Jeannette man allegedly gained access to an area above a tanning booth, an attorney said Friday.Attorney Mark A. Smith of Pribanic, Pribanic and Archinaco of White Oak said he plans to sue Colony Holding Co., owner of Countryside Plaza; Sunkissed Tanning and Spa; Toni Tomei, owner of the tanning salon; and Jesse Macklin, who is accused of photographing the clients.A notice about the forthcoming lawsuit was filed yesterday in Westmoreland County Court. Smith said he represents Mylyssa Wilson and Melissa Halerz, who used tanning beds at the salon in 2006 or 2007 while they were teenagers and were photographed.”It’s to find out why and how this happened, particularly for the length of time it was going on,” Smith said. “I’m trying to get these girls some answers. That (monetary damages) will be addressed later.”
Smith anticipates filing the lawsuit in the next week to 10 days. No suit filed so far in county court has named the plaza owner or Macklin as defendants.
State police at Greensburg charged Macklin, 28, of 600 N. Eighth St. with secretly recording girls and women in various stages of undress from the area above a drop ceiling, then putting the images on pornographic websites. Police said Macklin would crawl into the ceiling space and sometimes spend 10 to 11 hours a day there taping the victims.
Macklin is charged with 242 counts of burglary, distributing child pornography, possession of child pornography, sexual abuse of children, selling sexual materials, criminal trespass and invasion of privacy. He was jailed on $50,000 bail.
Police said 73 women apparently were photographed, at least 20 of them juveniles. More than half have been identified by authorities.
Messages left at Colony’s office in Irwin and for Tomei at the tanning salon were not returned yesterday. A person who answered the phone at Colony’s office confirmed her company owns the plaza where the tanning salon is located.
Smith said the businesses potentially bear civil responsibility since Macklin allegedly gained access to the ceiling area through other businesses in the plaza.
“As we understand it, he had been able to come and go as he pleased through adjacent businesses,” Smith said. “These girls are quite concerned.”
Police started investigating in October 2007, when a Mt. Pleasant Area High School student reported that schoolmates told her that photographs of her in various stages of undress at the salon were posted on pornographic sites, Trooper Stephen J. Limani, spokesman for the Greensburg barracks, said this week.
Police were unable to develop more information, but in early 2010 another woman who was secretly taped in 2007 came forward, Limani said.
By December, about 20 were established as victims, police said. Authorities went to the salon and searched the ceiling, where some of the videos were shot through a small hole. Police retrieved food wrappers, water bottles and a wrapper from a videotape. Some of the bottles contained “urine and tobacco chew spit,” Limani said.
Seven fingerprints lifted from the garbage matched Macklin’s, Limani said.
Police said Macklin confessed that he uploaded the videos to several websites from his laptop computer at home, according to court papers.
So far, 13 women have filed suit in county court. They are alleging invasion of privacy, negligence and outrageous conduct. Each is seeking in excess of $50,000, plus punitive damages.