#collegesafety | Witness covid disclosure cuts short Westmoreland County rape trial

The nonjury trial of a Monessen man charged with raping a former California University of Pennsylvania student in 2019 was halted Tuesday after the alleged victim testified that she recently tested positive for coronavirus.

Common Pleas Court Judge Christopher Feliciani initially allowed the 21-year-old Pitcairn woman to testify while wearing a face mask. A few minutes later, the judge cut short the trial at the Westmoreland County Courthouse after defense attorney Neil Marcus raised concerns.

Marcus said he was uncomfortable exchanging documents with the woman, papers that he claimed he had not previously received from the prosecution.

“We’ll have to reschedule the trial,” Feliciani said.

Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Dupilka said she did not know about the witnesses’ diagnosis before it was disclosed in court.

The witness said she originally tested positive for coronavirus on Jan. 9. Her mother, seated in the first row of the courtroom, told the judge her daughter was diagnosed on Jan. 6 and had since completed her quarantine period.

Marcus’ client, Deandre Frezzell, 22, is charged with rape, sexual assault, indecent assault and strangulation related to an incident at his Monessen home on May 7, 2019.

The woman testified she that was the night she met Frezzell, who was a friend of her college roommates. She said she drove to Frezzell’s home, watched him play video games and fell asleep on his bed. She said she rebuffed his advances at least twice before he put his hands around her neck and raped her.

Frezzell, who is free on bail, has denied the allegations.

The judge did not set a date for the trial to continue.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, rcholodofsky@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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