By Riley Yates
The Morning Call
BERKS COUNTY, Pa. — The father of a 25-year-old man who gunned down a Berks County deputy sheriff pleaded no contest Wednesday to a felony charge that he helped his suicidal son acquire a firearm in violation of the law.
Maurice L. Connor, 72, entered the plea after half a day of testimony before a jury in Northampton County. His weapons trial was moved to the courthouse in Easton because residents of Berks County had proven too familiar with the 2011 shootout in which Deputy Sheriff Kyle D. Pagerly was killed with an AK-47 assault rifle.
Pagerly, a K-9 officer, was slain that night during a gun battle with Connor's son, Matthew, in the woods behind the family's house in Albany Township near Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. Matthew Connor was also killed when police returned fire.
Berks County Assistant District Attorney Matthew Thren said that earlier that month, Maurice Connor had given his son one of the two guns he was armed with — a .32-caliber pistol that was found in Matthew Connor's pocket. The son was prohibited from having firearms because of a felony burglary conviction while a juvenile, Thren said.
Maurice Connor's plea agreement was to a charge of providing a firearm to a felon. By not contesting the allegation, he acknowledged that prosecutors could prove it beyond a reasonable doubt; it will be treated the same as a guilty plea when the defendant is sentenced May 5 in Reading.
Connor faces up to seven years in prison and guidelines that recommend from probation to nine months in jail at minimum.
Under the plea bargain, prosecutors withdrew five other firearms charges. Defense attorney Eric Winter said that while his client may have been acquitted of the other counts if the trial had proceeded, he believes Connor would have been found guilty of the charge contained in the plea.
At trial, prosecutors had been barred from mentioning Pagerly's death, with Thren telling jurors Wednesday morning only that police responded to the Connor home June 29, 2011, for the purpose of arresting Matthew Connor.
Pagerly was part of a task force of county, state and federal officers who responded after an earlier incident in which Matthew Connor fired shots toward his father, sister, girlfriend and a family friend, police said.
When authorities arrived, Matthew Connor — dressed in full camouflage, including a mask and gloves — ran into the woods before the fatal shootout occurred. He was armed with two knives, the two guns and large-capacity magazines.
Another man — Jared D. Engleman, 28, of Perry Township — also faces firearms charges for allegedly buying Matthew Connor the AK-47 he used to kill Pagerly. Engleman is scheduled to go to trial Thursday in Easton.
The venue was moved after attempts to try the men in Berks County Court resulted in mistrials in October, according to court records. York County Senior Judge John Uhler is presiding after the Berks County bench recused itself from the cases.
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