Rooster Katona Wins Appeal

December 5, 2016

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Rooster Katona Wins Appeal

Last Friday in a two-to-three split decision, a Pennsylvania appeals court overturned the drug conviction of former Pagans Motorcycle Club president Dennis Andrew “Rooster” Katona.

Katona was arrested in June 2011 after a massive Swat raid in service of a search warrant discovered about three ounces of cocaine and three ounces of methamphetamine  The drugs were found in closed containers in a bedroom shared by Katona and his wife Sherri. There was no evidence indicating who put the drugs there or when.

The raid and subsequent prosecution essentially ruined Katona. He spent a month in jail until he was released to home confinement on $500.000 bail. Debra Pezze, the judge presiding over the case refused to let the accused man work and sent him a bill for $4,378 for fees associated with his case.


Worse, while he was confined to his home, an impaired driver named Ronald S. Thomas drove Katona’s car into a telephone pole. Thomas may not even have had Katona’s permission  to drive the car. Katona was so impoverished by defending himself against the drug charges that his car was uninsured so Verizon Communications Inc. sued Katona for $5,388.

In a non-jury trial, Judge Pezze found Katona guilty on November 10, 2014 and sentenced him to 40 – 80 months in prison. He has been incarcerated ever since. In January 2015, he appealed his conviction on the grounds that the search warrant that led to the discovery of the drugs in his bedroom was illegal. Under a legal doctrine, called “fruit of the poisonous tree,.” first named by Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter in 1939, if a search warrant is illegal none of the evidence discovered by it can be used by a prosecutor.

Jasup Hoffman

The warrant that authorized a Swat team to invade and search Katona’s home was based on a month’s worth of conversations recorded by a snitch named Jasup Hoffman.  The order that authorized Hoffman to record all his conversations with Katona is chillingly banal. It read in part: “Intercept conversations between Jasup Hoffman and Dennis Katona which may occur between the date of this Order and thirty (30) days thereafter, at the residence of Dennis Katona or at any other location within Westmoreland County where Dennis Katona may have an expectation of privacy such as one would have in one’s own home. The type of communications to be intercepted will concern the commission of offenses involving violations of the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device & Cosmetic Act, Corrupt Organization and conspiracy to commit said offenses, in violation of Section 903 of the Crimes Code.”

It is usual in Pennsylvania for an intercept order to remain valid for 30 days. What was at issue in Katona’s appeal was “whether a separate finding of probable cause was required each time the CI intercepted a conversation with (Katona) in his home or whether permitting unlimited intercepts over a 30-day period was constitutional.” The appeals court decided that a new warrant is required each time the police let a confidential informant record a private conversation in somebody’s home.

Michael M. Ahwesh, the prosecutor in the case, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he will appeal the decision to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. If that court upholds Katona’s appeal, his five and a half year long ordeal will be over and he will be a free man. As of today, Katona remains incarcerated at the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution at Fayette in LaBelle, Pennsylvania, about 45 miles south of Pittsburgh.

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5 Responses to “Rooster Katona Wins Appeal”

  1. Gandalf Says:

    I’m betting the Marcus Hook Boys ain’t saying crap on any website. (No offense to Rebel) Not complaining, Not Cheering…. NOTHING! Old School. As it should be.

  2. BMW Says:

    Case thrown out, man still imprisoned? WTF? If the case is thrown out, Katona ought to be able to go home. This has already taken on the malignant odor of persecution rather than prosecution. The amount of alleged drugs is too small to be a true indicator of employment as a drug dealer. Doesn’t anyone in the persecutors’ office have any common sense? The judge sounds like a crook himself! One question: is this judge a Baylor grad?


  3. Shyster Says:

    Wong Sun lives!


  4. Sieg Says:

    Be interesting to see how the 16 reacts on his release, all the “Nomad” stuff.

    FTF / FTP

  5. david Says:

    Persecutor Ahwesh’s reasons for appeal will be stated in his case brief, and those reasons put into the public record probably will make Ahwesh lose the appeal, while making Katona’s persecution last longer. Ahwesh may even have been a pig at some point in his life.

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