Cops charge man with trespassing
The man told the justice he wanted to go to jail.
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR NEW CASTLE BUREAU
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- A man barred from the Lawrence County Government Center for throwing a toothbrush at a county commissioner was arrested and charged with criminal trespass when he tried to enter the building.
Robert A. Semler, 72, of Highland Avenue, New Castle, was removed from the government center about 10 a.m. Monday by deputies.
Security guards at the government center entrance said they were not permitted to let Semler in the building and had a copy of a letter sent to Semler by county Solicitor John Hodge. The letter instructs Semler to stay away from the building unless he is attending court proceedings.
Once outside, Semler fell to the ground near the parking lot and refused to get up when prodded by a deputy. He remained on the ground for about a half hour with deputies and others urging him to go home.
Semler said that being banned from the government center, which houses all county offices, is a violation of his constitutional rights.
City police arrived and handcuffed Semler when he refused to leave. He was taken to District Justice Melissa Amodie's office and arraigned on one count of criminal trespass.
She released Semler without bond, but he refused to leave.
"I don't want to be released on my own recognizance. Now where are you going to take me?" Semler said.
"You can go anywhere you want," Amodie said.
"I want to go to jail," Semler replied.
Semler, a frequent visitor at government meetings, often tells officials he wants to go to jail, where the county pays medical and housing bills.
A counselor from Lawrence County Human Service Center was called to speak to Semler. The two spent most of the morning on a bench at the government center before they left.
Semler's preliminary hearing is set for Friday before Justice Amodie.
Other charges: The Highland Avenue man also faces charges of disrupting public meetings and disorderly conduct. He is accused of throwing a toothbrush at Commissioner Ed Fosnaught.
Semler often carries a toothbrush in his shirt pocket, saying he's ready to be taken to jail.
During the Dec. 19 commissioners' meeting, Semler became disruptive when Fosnaught was speaking. Fosnaught, who was hit on the shoulder with the toothbrush, stopped the meeting until Semler left with another visitor.
He was later sent a summons and the letter instructing him to stay away from the center.