The stepson of a Spring Garden Township man accused of staging a fake robbery to delay paying a gambling debt has pleaded guilty for his role in the incident.
Darren T. Haines, 26, pleaded guilty last month to conspiracy to make a false report and criminal mischief/damage to property, according to the office of District Judge Walter Groom.
The case against his stepfather, Dennis Charles Schaller, is still pending. Schaller is charged with making a false report to police and conspiracy to commit that offense.
Haines, of Friendship Avenue in Hallam, accidentally shot Schaller while helping him pull off the caper, according to Spring Garden Township Police. Haines was not charged for the accidental shooting.
Dropped gun: When Schaller confessed to police, he initially told them he shot himself in the lower back before he and his stepson staged the robbery, according to police.
But while being questioned by detectives, Haines admitted that prior to arriving at the site of the faked robbery, he dropped his gun in Schaller's car and it went off accidentally, hitting Schaller in the back, according to police.
"(Schaller) has not refuted Haines' statement that it was an accidental shooting," township police Chief George Swartz has said.
Schaller has fully recovered from his wound, according to his defense attorney, Brian Perry.
The allegations: Police said after being accidentally shot, Schaller went forward with his plan and drove to a building at 630 Loucks Mill Road shortly before 8 p.m. Jan. 13. Inside was someone Schaller owed money to, as well as a group gathered for a regular poker game, police said.
The debt was for football gambling, Perry confirmed.
Video surveillance from outside the business showed Schaller approaching the door, at which point Haines came into view, police said.
Haines shoved Schaller, then fired a gun into the surveillance camera and the glass door of the business before running away, police said.
Schaller later confessed he wanted people inside to think he'd been robbed and shot, to give him more time to pay off his debt, charging documents allege.
He also made sure the staged robbery was caught on camera, according to police.
Restitution: Haines pleaded guilty May 7 to the two third-degree misdemeanor charges, but his case was not closed until May 20, records state.
That's the day he paid $1,417.68 at the district judge's office. Haines paid $837.58 in restitution and $580.10 in court costs, according to Groom's office. There was no prison time ordered in the case.
Haines' defense attorney, Korey Leslie, declined comment.
Perry said Schaller, 51, of Rockhill Lane, has applied for the county's Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition diversionary program, which allows first-time nonviolent offenders to avoid possible convictions by instead completing a set of court-ordered requirements.
"We are hoping he will be accepted into the ... program," Perry said.
Defendants who successfully complete ARD can petition the court to have their criminal cases expunged.