Michele Harris said her husband was in a pool of his blood on the floor of the Slovak Club in Charleroi when she crawled through a scrum of men who were beating him one night in April.
Shielding him with her body, she looked up and “said something to the effect of ‘Really?’ or ‘Are you kidding me?’” she testified Tuesday.
In response, someone named an offshoot of the Pagan Motorcycle Club her spouse belonged to: “(Expletive) Sutars Soldiers.”
Six men who were allegedly involved in the April 18 beating of Troy Harris inside of the hangout at 700 McKean Avenue were ordered Tuesday by District Judge Larry Hopkins to face trial in the case in Washington County Court of Common Pleas.
Each of the men – Corey Volk, 24, of West Newton; Paul Cochran, 54, of Charleroi; John Sadvary, 39, of Penn Hills; Matthew Vasquez, 30, of Monessen; Joshua Pagliei, 43, of Monongahela; and Jason Huff, 40, of Plum – faces charges including attempted homicide, conspiracy to commit homicide and aggravated assault.
Ten people in all are facing charges in the case, including Zachary Yagnich, 26, of Charleroi, who waived his own preliminary hearing on conspiracy charges before he testified this week.
Authorities haven’t offered a motive, but said many of those allegedly involved are Pagan members.
Joseph Olinsky, 45, whose address was not immediately known, turned himself in Monday to face charges in the case. An Aug. 7 preliminary hearing is scheduled for him, said Dennis Paluso, the county’s first assistant district attorney.
Paluso said a sealed arrest warrant, criminal complaint and affidavit have been filed against another purported conspirator who wasn’t at the Slovak Club when Harris was assaulted.
Meanwhile, Vasquez’ fiancée at the time, Jamie Granato, is awaiting a preliminary hearing on charges including conspiracy, Paluso said.
The attorneys for the six defendants in court Tuesday asked Hopkins to drop some charges over their arguments there was a lack of evidence in the case and that most of the assault took place out of the range of the bar’s surveillance camera.
“There was never any meeting of the minds,” said Washington attorney Christopher L. Blackwell, who represented Vasquez.
“There’s no proof,” he added, “that they went there to murder someone.”
Hopkins denied bond for the six defendants, saying there is a bond reduction hearing for them Thursday before Judge John F. DiSalle.
Deputy District Attorney Jason Walsh relied on testimony that there were calls made to find Troy Harris before the men allegedly went to confront him.
“They went in one-by-one, single file,” Walsh said. “Every one of them ran to him. What were they doing, talking, dancing? Every one of them circled around him.”
Yagnich described himself as having been a friend of Troy Harris and a “supporter,” but not a member of the Pagans.
Michele Harris testified her husband was previously a member of that club, but left and joined the Sutars – founded by former Pagans national president Dennis Katona, who’s known by the nickname “Rooster” – because he “felt that the club was going in a direction that he felt uncomfortable with.”
Yagnich is an officer of the Slovak Club, but initially decided to go to the town’s Belgian Club because he didn’t want to run into Harris, whom he described as a troublemaker. He ran into Granato there, and Harris’ name came up.
Soon, she handed him her phone during a call with Vasquez, and Yagnich said he’d go find out for sure if Harris was at the Slovak Club, and drove to the establishment’s parking lot.
From there, he called someone who was inside the club to confirm Harris was there, and then called Vasquez to relay that information to him. Soon, another man called, asked about Harris, and suggested Yagnich leave.
Instead, Yagnich waited until about seven men – he said Volk, Cochran, Vasquez and Huff were among them – arrived on motorcycles and followed him as he let them in with his key. He said he warned the others about the cameras.
Surveillance video of what happened next was played several times during Tuesday’s hearing. In the footage, Troy Harris sits at the bar and talks to a couple of other people while his wife was a few seats away, carrying on her own conversation with the bartender.
Yagnich is shown opening the door before he stops partway into the room and his companions walk ahead of him. The first of them – whom Yagnich identified as Huff – proceeds to strike Harris while Harris is still in his seat. A scuffle ensues, with others joining in and appearing to kick Harris after he falls to the floor.
Police said the beating occurred at about 10 p.m.
Michele Harris said she tried to get to her purse, where she keeps her registered firearm, during the attack.
She said her husband was initially flown to Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh and spent weeks there and in other hospitals with injuries including a brain hemorrhage, broken eye socket, stroke and bruising on his legs that gave him trouble walking. He requires occupational, physical and speech therapy and has cognitive problems, she said.
Yagnich, who’s out of jail but wears an ankle monitor, did concede all he could tell from the video was that the men were making kicking motions, but that it wasn’t clear from the video whose feet were actually striking Harris while he laid on the ground. From where he’d been standing, he couldn’t actually see the floor.
The attackers quickly cleared out.
Charleroi Regional Detective Chad Zelinsky, who filed the charges, testified a license plate reader on the Charleroi-Monessen Bridge recorded vehicles registered to the accused or their relatives shortly afterward.
County Detective Kiprian Yarosh testified he interviewed Granato early in July with her attorney, Chad Schneider, present. During that interview, Granato said she had spoken to Vasquez following the attack on Harris. Vasquez allegedly told her Harris had pulled a gun on the men.
Yarosh rejected that theory, saying video showed Harris holding a beer in his left hand and putting on his glasses when the other men walked through the door. He goes on to extend his right hand to Huff as if to shake hands, but Yarosh said Huff “sucker-punched” Harris instead.
“There was no weapon pulled,” Yarosh said.
Under cross-examination by one of the defense attorneys, Yagnich denied having had a role in any conspiracy.
“I was arrested for being there,” he said at one point.