Trial opens today for 5 in pizza shop fight




By Michael P. Rellahan, Special to The Mercury


WEST CHESTER — The quintet of men who are accused of beating a Pottstown area man at a North Coventry pizza parlor are scheduled to go on trial today in Chester County Court.


Charged with assault and other offenses, the five men are said to have beaten and kicked the alleged victim when he arrived at the Parma Pizza shop in the Coventry Mall and found his girlfriend with the group.


Because the man fought some of the men off with a box cutter and sent at least one to the hospital, attorneys for the men are expected to tell the jury in the case, which was selected Monday, that the fight was a matter of self-defense.


Charged are pizza store owner Michael J. Cecchetelli, 24, and Jason R. Beideman, 28, both of North Coventry; George Calancea, 24, and Dustin L. Valway, 24, both of Pottstown; and Timothy A. Kopystecki, 23, of Linfield. The men were arrested in December, about one month after the fight.


The five men will hear opening statements by their attorneys and Assistant District Attorney Anne Marie Wheatcraft as the trial begins today in front of Judge Anthony Sarcione.


According to a police criminal complaint filed in the case, the incident began around 3 a.m. at the pizza parlor, where a woman was eating with the five men. At some point in the morning, her boyfriend, Martin Early, arrived at the restaurant and found her there. According to the affidavit, Beideman, Cecchetelli and Kopystecki all began punching and kicking the boyfriend when he stood in a doorway of the business.


The affidavit states that during the assault, Early pulled out a box cutter and began swinging it back and forth at the men in an attempt to protect himself.


He was able to escape the group and run out of the building to the parking lot, where his 2001 Ford Mustang was parked, police said.


Early told police that as he tried to get to the car, Kopystecki jumped on him from behind and slammed his head several times into the blacktop of the parking lot.


When he finally climbed into his car and began trying to drive away, he said that Calancea pulled him from the car and began choking him.


While the two were in the parking lot struggling, Valway is alleged to have come up to Early with a handgun of some kind, point it at him, and tell him, “You cut my boy. I’ll hunt you down.”


Afterwards, Early went across the street from the mall and phoned police. Four of the men were arrested on Dec. 17, while Valway was charged sometime afterwards.


According to Robert J. Donatoni of West Chester, the attorney for restaurant owner Cecchetelli, his client was slashed several times with the box cutter and had to be taken to the hospital.


Donatoni said that his client and the other men were acting in self-defense when they fought with Early.


Cecchetelli and Beideman, Kopystecki and Calancea are all charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, criminal mischief and conspiracy.


Valway is charged with simple assault and possession of an instrument of crime.


Beideman, the only one of the defendants who is being held in Chester County Prison, is represented by Jeffrey Boyd of Boyertown. Kopystecki and Calancea are both represented by Martin Mullaney of Skippack, while Valway is represented by Evan Kelly of Philadelphia.


The trial is expected to last through the week.

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