U.S. attorney to appear at Solomon sentencing

U.S. attorney to appear at Solomon sentencing

Photo of Barbara Miller
by Barbara Miller
Staff Writer
Jim McNutt / Observer-Reporter
Washington County District Attorney Gene Vittone speaks to a small gathering before introducing the guest speaker, U.S. Attorney David Hickton. The Washington County district attorney’s office observed National Crime Victims Rights Week with speakers and lunch in the city parking lot on South Main Street Tuesday. Order a Print

The sentencing of former East Washington police chief Donald Solomon, who allegedly called himself “the best cop money can buy,” is scheduled next month in U.S. District Court, Pittsburgh, and U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton said he intends to participate personally.

Hickton, who was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2010, is one of only 93 U.S. attorneys, and his office handled more than 1,200 cases last year, according to U.S. District Court statistics of filings, pending cases and closed cases in the main office in Pittsburgh, plus Erie and Johnstown.

“The Solomon case is an outrageous case of official corruption, and I have been participating directly to send a message about how significant I think that case is,” Hickton said in an interview.

He called the case “a rather extreme example of offering protection to drug dealers, selling Tasers to drug dealers, and I will be in the courtroom when we argue for a very substantial sentence to send a message that that is not acceptable.”

According to the federal indictment, Solomon met with undercover agents while in uniform and on duty, agreeing to provide distractions for the staged multi-kilogram cocaine sales that took place in East Washington and South Strabane Township.

He also made threats toward a local politician and woman, according to authorities.

Solomon, 56, who pleaded guilty earlier this year, is scheduled to be sentenced May 8. He was charged with accepting money from an FBI agent posing as a drug dealer and faces a maximum sentence of 60 years in prison and a $750,000 fine.

Hickton was in Washington Tuesday at the invitation of Washington County District Attorney Eugene Vittone to shine a spotlight on crime victims’ rights, sexual assault awareness and this weekend’s drug take-back program.

Vittone contacted Hickton when he took office last year. There are 25 district attorneys in the Western District of Pennsylvania, “and none of the relationships I have with them are better than the relationship I have with Gene,” Hickton said of Vittone.

U.S. attorneys are facing cuts from the budget-reducing policy known as “the sequester,” which Hickton said is resulting in budget freezes, hiring freezes and reduction of money for victim and witness programs and programs for first-time offenders.

The irony, Hickton said, is that “we make money. Last year, our office had a $10 million budget, and we brought in $19 million. The U.S. attorney community as a whole brought in over $6 billion.”

A crime victim who addressed Tuesday’s gathering on South Main Street was Pamela Tarr, 51, whose son, Thomas Tarr Jr., was murdered in January 2006 in North Franklin Township after his truck broke down.

She wears a heart engraved with a photo of her son taken just hours before his death.

She said she knows firsthand what the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing and Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn., are going through because of the tragedy she lives with every day.

Asked how she copes with knowing that those who killed her son are still alive, albeit in prison, she said, “Do I hate them? No. Because if I hate them, then I have feelings for them, and I just try to keep it separate. I haven’t talked to them. I don’t know if I could or not.”

Because so many crimes are drug-related and prescription drugs are readily available, Vittone also promoted this weekend’s prescription drug take-back program.

Drug take-back locations from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday include: Shop 'n Save, 617 West Pike St., Canonsburg; Mon Valley Hospital, where drive-up service will be available; East Bethlehem Township Building, 36 Water St., Fredericktown; Chartiers Township Police Station, 2 Buccaneer Drive, Houston; McDonald Borough Building, 151 School St.; Midway Borough Building, 304 Noblestown Road; Burgettstown Borough Building; Robinson Township Building, 8400 Noblestown Road, McDonald; Independence Township Municipal Office; Mt. Pleasant Township Municipal Building, 31 McCarrell Road, Hickory; Washington Crown Center, between main entrances; Pennsylvania State Police, 83 Murtland Ave., Washington; RESA Police Department, Stockdale Borough Building; Giant Eagle, 331 Washington Road, South Strabane Township; and Washington City Hall.

Peters Township Police Department will have collection points at Walgreens Drug Store, 200 East McMurray Road; Kmart, 4041 Washington Road; McMurray Dairy Bar, 601 East McMurray Road; and Firehouse Subs, 126 Gallery Drive, McMurray.