Zachary Yagnich testified in court for at least the third time on Wednesday that he learned that Troy Harris was at the Slovak Club in Charleroi. He notified members of the Pagans Motorcycle Club about Harris’ whereabouts before seven bikers arrived. Yagnich, vice president of the social club, let them in, and they proceeded to beat Harris so badly he spent the next several weeks in intensive care.
“I recall everybody in that group striking (Harris) at least once,” Yagnich, 27, said.
It was the second day of testimony in the jury trial of two members of the Pagans, Matthew Vasquez, 31, and Joseph Olinsky III, 46. They face charges including attempted homicide, aggravated assault and conspiracy to commit those crimes in connection with the April 18 beating of Harris, 54, of Fallowfield Township.
Olinsky and Vasquez are denied bail pending the verdict. The prosecution was expected to resume its case Thursday. The trial is expected to take at least another day.
Yagnich is charged with counts of conspiracy.
“I didn’t participate in a plan to hurt anybody,” Yagnich said under cross-examination by Stephen Colafella, Vasquez’s attorney.
However Yagnich understood his own role, he is now cooperating with Washington County prosecutors who say Vasquez and Olinsky were part of the group that attacked Harris, a former Pagan who by then had joined Sutars Soldiers Motorcycle Club, a rival group.
Harris’ injuries were severe enough that he had to be taken by helicopter to Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, where he spent most of the next few weeks unconscious before his release to another facility.
The attack occurred about 10:20 p.m.
Harris’ wife, Michele Mackey Harris, testified she saw the group file in behind Yagnich and attack her husband. She was hit several times in the head and had a pinched nerve in her neck from the blows. By the end of it, she was on the ground with her spouse, trying to shield him from the blows. When she looked up, she testified she heard someone say, “(Expletive) Sutars Soldiers.” They left as quickly as they’d come in.
“They were kicking him as he lay in blood and vomit?” Deputy District Attorney Jason Walsh asked her.
“Yes,” Mackey Harris answered.
Yagnich, who said he was a supporter of the Pagans, testified he was at the Charleroi Belgian Club earlier in the evening and ran into Jamie Granato, who was engaged to Vasquez at the time. He told her he’d heard Harris was at the Slovak Club at 700 McKean Ave., Yagnich said.
Yagnich claimed Granato soon handed him her phone. Vasquez, a friend of Yagnich’s, was on the line. He asked Yagnich to confirm Harris’ whereabouts. Yagnich made sure of where Harris was, and informed Vasquez. At some point, he drove over to the Slovak Club parking lot, where he also spoke to Brian Kerushkin, the president of the Fayette City chapter, who said some men were going to show up and that Yagnich should leave. Instead, he stayed and warned them that there were cameras inside before they all went in. He used his key to open the door.
Granato, 28, is similarly cooperating with the government. She contradicted Yagnich’s testimony during her own turn on the stand Wednesday, when she said it was Yagnich who asked her to call Vasquez. She said he went out of earshot for the conversation, and she didn’t know why they were talking. When Yagnich returned, he said he was going to meet Vasquez.
Following a lengthy proceeding in chambers, Granato went on to testify for Walsh that her fiancé had abused her physically, emotionally and mentally during much of their yearslong relationship. Once, she said, he pulled her off another Pagan’s motorcycle when she unintentionally made him angry by trying to get a ride from someone else. She said Vasquez threw her to the ground and then over a guardrail. It was just one instance of violence she experienced at his hands.
Questioned by Colafella, Granato said she didn’t report any of what happened to law enforcement.
“I was afraid to call the police,” she said.
A Pagan who admittedly participated in the attack on Harris, Paul Cochran, 55, testified he was hanging out for the weekly meeting known as “church” at Junction Tavern in Perryopolis with members of the Fayette City chapter and some other locals. Michael Barringer, who goes by “Montana” and is the national sergeant-at-arms for the organization, called him over to talk. Cochran said Barringer told him to show some of the men where the Slovak Club was because Harris was there, and they were going to “teach him a lesson.”
Cochran took the instructions to mean they were all going to beat Harris up. It was a problem for them that Harris was at the social hall, which Cochran referred to as “our territory.”
Following his arrest, Cochran spent about five months in jail but decided to testify against his former comrades because his mother was dying and he wanted to see her. She passed away in December. He said he didn’t know what would happen to his case in consideration for his testimony.
The attorneys for the co-defendants asked witnesses about whether there was any evidence they meant to cause Harris injury. Cochran said under cross-examination by Renee Colbert, Olinsky’s court-appointed attorney, that he didn’t speak to her client specifically about killing or beating Harris.
Yagnich was the first of 12 people charged in connection with the beating. Other than Olinsky and Vasquez, most pleaded guilty, including Keruskin and Barringer.
Yagnich spent two weeks in Greene County jail. Late in June, he was released on house arrest with an anklet that tracks his movements in exchange for his promise to testify. Yagnich said he wasn’t sure what his assistance would ultimately mean for his case.
Colafella sought to counter the prosecution’s assertions of a conspiracy against Harris by asking Yagnich about what he knew beforehand.
Yagnich said that when the seven men showed up on motorcycles, he had a bad feeling, but didn’t know exactly what would happen.
“Had anybody told you anything that led you to believe (Harris) was going to be attacked?” Colafella asked.
No one had, Yagnich replied.