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Man not guilty of hitting guard. Jurors verdict unanimous.

posted April 23, 2019

Man not guilty of hitting guard. Jurors verdict unanimous.

Eric Jankiewicz, Eagle Staff Writer
Butler Eagle
April 19, 2019

The lawyer of a Butler man accused of hitting a security guard with his car begged jurors in Butler County court Thursday to find his client not guilty “and let this man get on with his life.”

After deliberating for an hour on the felony assault case that began Wednesday, jurors returned a unanimous verdict of not guilty, eliciting whoops and praises of God from the defendant's family members attending the trial before Judge William Shaffer.

Peter D. Gall, 32, was charged in 2017 with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and other charges after he was accused of using his car to hit a security guard at Clearview Mall.

Gall and a friend were parked in the mall's lot on the night of June 20 when two security guards told them to leave. But instead of leaving, a confrontation ensued and continued to escalate with one guard aiming a gun at Gall.

Gall teared up and hugged his family as the 14-member jury, comprised of eight men and six women, announced the not guilty verdict.

“I haven't been able to sleep well since this whole thing started,” said Gall's father, David. “The whole thing seemed contrived. It seemed that they were shifting the blame to my son.”

“It's such a relief. The whole community looked at me like I was this criminal,” Gall said after the trial. “You're guilty until proven innocent, it seems like.”

As Gall and his family went to leave the courthouse, several jurors stood in a circle at the exit. Gall declined an invitation to speak with the group, but his lawyer, Al Lindsay, spoke to them.
“Thank you so much, everyone,” Lindsay said. “I really appreciate your concern.”

During closing statements earlier in the day, prosecutors called Gall a liar and said he used his car to assault mall security guard Michael Choate-Speckert during the June 2017 confrontation.
“His story is a lie. He's not the victim. He rammed his car 10 miles per hour into Mr. Choate,” Assistant District Attorney Robert Zanella told the jury. “The defense lies. (Gall) decides to drive into Mr. Choate because he's mad.”
Zanella pointed out that Choate-Speckert's training as a Marine included assessing threats and proper ways to respond to it. He explained that Choate-Speckert pulled a gun on Gall because he believed his life was in danger.

Lindsay, on the other hand, questioned why prosecutors focused on the victim's military training. “What's the deal with the fact that he's a military police officer with the Marines?” Lindsay asked. “We're in an era where we lionize people in the military. Him being an MP has nothing to do with this case.”

Lindsay further characterized Choate-Speckert as being overzealous in his duties as a mall guard.
“I don't know what got into him,” Lindsay said. “This case was about anger. Mr. Choate-Speckert lost it. His conduct was such that he was terminated the next day.”

Gall said he was glad he took the case to trial, adding that the jurors cleared his name.
“I'm happy this is all over,” Gall said.