Ex-mayor acquitted in armed encounter with minors in park

June 23, 2021 GMT

GREENSBURG, Pa. (AP) — The former mayor of a small western Pennsylvania town has been acquitted of all charges in an armed encounter with several minors in a park following an altercation involving his son.

Jurors deliberated for four hours Wednesday before acquitting former Derry mayor Kevin Gross of a dozen misdemeanor counts of simple assault, reckless endangerment and harassment. On Tuesday, a Westmoreland County judge had dismissed felony aggravated assault charges after prosecutors rested their case.

Gross resigned in April 2019 less than a week after he was accused of pointing a weapon at a 15-year-old youth in a borough park and ordering him to the ground. Prosecutors also accused the 40-year-old defendant of ordering three girls who were bystanders to put their cellphones down.

Prosecutors argued that Gross acted in a frightening way toward the children and escalated the situation.

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But defense attorney Tim Andrews argued that Gross did not intend to harm or scare anyone and pointed the weapon at the ground to try to get control of the situation, which he had been told involved a knife. Andrews told the Tribune Review after the verdict that his client was “ecstatic” about the outcome.

“Mr. Gross and his family have gone through two years of hell awaiting this trial and … maybe they can move forward with their lives,” he said. “We felt these charges were unjustified from the get go and the jury’s agreed with us, so we’re very happy.”

Pete Caravello, assistant district attorney, said he was “disappointed for the victims” but respected the jury’s verdict.

Derry is about 40 miles (65 kilometers) east of Pittsburgh.

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This story has been corrected to correct the dateline to Greensburg rather than Derry.