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Redmond, confused over plea, plans to appeal sentence for slap

Thursday, October 24, 2002

By Johnna A. Pro, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

WPXI anchorwoman Gina Redmond was sentenced to community service yesterday after pleading no contest to starting a bar fight in Mount Washington in August and slapping her former producer.

WPXI's Gina Redmond pleaded no contest yesterday to starting a bar fight, but says she plans to appeal. (Annie O'Neill, Post-Gazette)

But hours after District Justice Charles A. McLaughlin sentenced her, Redmond called the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and said she wanted to appeal.

"I didn't fully understand what was taking place in court," Redmond said. "Had I known evidence was going to be presented, we would have presented evidence as well and we fully plan to appeal the magistrate's ruling."

A plea of nolo contendere, or no contest, is not an admission of guilt, but is treated as a guilty plea for sentencing purposes.

The private complaint against Redmond was filed by Roberta Petterson, a WTAE producer who formerly worked at Channel 11.

Petterson and Redmond were among a group of people attending a party Aug. 10 at Redbeard's Mountain Resort & Yacht Club when Redmond attacked her verbally and struck her, Petterson has said.

Petterson's attorney, Robert DelGreco Jr., worked out the plea agreement in advance with lawyer James Ecker, who represented Redmond.

WTAE producer Roberta Petterson and her attorney, Robert DelGreco Jr., talk to reporters after yesterday's hearing. (Annie O'Neill, Post-Gazette)

"This was the ideal way to end it," Ecker said last night. "Personally, I thought that was it. That should be the end of it. As far as I knew [the judge] was accepting a plea of nolo contendere."

Ecker said, though, that if Redmond wants to appeal, they could explore that option.

Redmond's confusion about the meaning of the plea apparently arose during the hearing, when she heard that DelGreco would be allowed to present testimony to help the judge make a sentencing decision.

She thought the four witnesses in court, including WTAE anchor Michelle Wright, were going to testify against her.

"You didn't tell me about that," she whispered to Ecker.

After a brief meeting with Redmond, Ecker met with DelGreco. The two sides agreed that DelGreco would present a summary of the witnesses' testimony.

Redmond agreed to that and entered the plea.

In the summary, DelGreco told McLaughlin that if the witnesses testified, they would say that Redmond "in an unprovoked manner struck Roberta Petterson with an open-hand forceful flush smack to the left side of her face."

"Ms. Petterson did not receive any medical treatment. However, the force of the smack was painful and her face had a stinging sensation for an hour or so after the smack," DelGreco told the judge.

In response, Ecker told McLaughlin that Petterson had no permanent marks or injuries, saw no doctors and did not require medical treatment.

McLaughlin said that while Petterson might not have been seriously hurt, "the evidence presented shows Miss Redmond is guilty."

He sentenced Redmond to give three one-hour lectures at separate high schools of her choosing. She must do so by Jan. 15.

"I'm just sorry it happened and I hope Gina gets the help she needs," Petterson said after the hearing. "I just wanted the truth to be known. I hope it's over. It's over for me."

She declined to comment last night after learning that Redmond may appeal.

Channel 11 general manager Ray Carter said in a statement that Redmond and the station agreed "it would be prudent for her to take a few days off while this legal matter was being handled and while she was the subject of a news story."

Johnna Pro can be reached at jpro@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1574. TV editor Rob Owen contributed to this report.

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