A state senator was charged Tuesday with improperly storing a handgun and then lying about it to authorities after a 14-year-old neighbor used the firearm to kill himself.
Louis Farrell was found shot to death on July 22 with state Sen. Robert Regola’s 9 mm handgun at his side in the woods behind the two families’ homes.
The teenager had a key to Regola’s house so he could take care of the legislator’s pets while Regola was at the Statehouse, and Westmoreland County Coroner Ken Bacha earlier this month ruled the death a suicide. Regola, his 17-year-old son Bobby, and their attorneys have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
Regola was charged Tuesday with three counts each of perjury and false swearing and one count each of reckless endangerment and illegal possession of a weapon by a minor.
The perjury and weapons charges are both felonies, each punishable by up to seven years in prison. The reckless endangerment and false swearing charges are misdemeanors punishable by up to two years in prison each.
If convicted of perjury, Regola would automatically lose his Senate seat. The state constitution bars anyone convicted of embezzlement, bribery, perjury or other “infamous crime” from holding public office.
Regola declined to respond to questions Tuesday except to say that he was waiting to talk to his attorney, Charles Porter. Regola was scheduled to turn himself in at a Greensburg district judge’s office Wednesday.
Porter did not immediately return a phone message Tuesday.
Allegedly let son have gun in his room
The criminal complaint accuses Regola of possession of a firearm by a minor for allegedly letting his son keep the gun in his room before the shooting.
At a coroner’s inquest, the senator said the gun was never stored in Bobby’s room.
But two state troopers testified that on the day Louis was found dead the senator told them the gun had been kept in Bobby’s room months before, but that it had been stored in his bedroom the night before Louis was found shot.
A friend of both boys had testified that Bobby pulled the gun from a case beneath the night stand in his bedroom a year or two before the shooting and showed him and Louis how to load it.
Bobby Regola refused to testify after invoking his right against self-incrimination
An attorney for Louis’ family, Jon Perry, said the family disagrees with the suicide finding. They don’t allege that Bobby killed his young friend intentionally, but they believe he knows how the shooting occurred, Perry said.
“We have said from the very beginning that the state senator and his family have not been truthful or cooperative the entire time,” Perry said. “The district attorney has now reached the same conclusion, and Bobby Regola has taken the Fifth, so I’m asking the same question I’ve been asking since the beginning: What happened in the woods on July 22nd?”
Regola and his wife were out of town at the time of the shooting. Bobby Regola had spent the day at an amusement park with his girlfriend before coming home and having a five-minute phone conversation with Louis late the night before he died.