EASTON, Pa. | Prosecutors asked a Northampton County judge to consider a short prison stint for an elected constable convicted last month of fabricating a story about being confronted at gunpoint outside her West Easton home.
But Judge Stephen Baratta said he was concerned that a few months in county jail without the benefit of any type of counseling would only make things worse.
On Wednesday, Baratta sentenced West Easton Constable Tricia Mezzacappa to 12 months probation, following her jury conviction in March of a single misdemeanor count of making a false report to law enforcement. The charge stemmed from a February 2019 incident outside her borough home in which she accused a neighbor of pointing a gun at her.
As part of her probation, Mezzacappa is required to undergo counseling and psychiatric and drug and alcohol evaluations. She’s not to possess any firearms or any weapons of any kind in public.
Following her conviction, prosecutors said they received a report that Mezzacappa made comments toward Pennsylvania State Police that they found “concerning.” No charges were filed in connection with the incident, but the court had already ordered that she surrender her firearms.
In court Wednesday, Assistant District Attorney Abigail Bellafatto told the judge that one handgun registered to Mezzacappa remains unaccounted for. Mezzacappa reportedly sold the gun, so the judge ordered that she either attest to its sale or surrender the weapon. Handgun sales must be registered, the judge said.
Pennsylvania State Police responded to the 800 block of Ridge Street on Feb. 11, 2019, for a noise disturbance report. A trooper spoke with Mezzacappa and her neighbors.
Mezzacappa’s neighbor told a state trooper that he was in his vehicle earlier that night when she banged on his car window, cursing at him to get out of the car. He told state police Mezzacappa complained his exhaust was too loud and that she’d take him to court.
During her interview with authorities, Mezzacappa said a black man pointed a gun at her head as she got out of her vehicle that night, prompting her to fire a round. She said her alleged assailant then drove away.
Investigators examined the handgun Mezzacappa claimed she fired and found a full magazine without a round in the chamber. Police did not find a shell casing, and neighbors did not report hearing a gunshot that night.
Mezzacappa has continued to assert her innocence, insisting that a black man with a gun approached her that night before driving away, the judge said in reviewing the pre-sentencing investigation.
He indicated that she’s had as many as 30 jobs since 1992, having been fired 10 times and leaving the rest over claims of mismanagement or antagonistic supervisors. The judge noted that she was “aggressive and uncooperative” with the probation department in preparing the pre-sentencing investigation and is currently living outside the county in a hotel citing what she deems “security concerns.”
The pre-sentencing investigation noted Mezzacappa’s feelings of persecution and perceived mistreatment against her and included a lengthy list of people she feels have wronged her, including former employers and local blogger, Bernie O’Hare, according to the judge.
During the trial, the victim – Mezzacappa’s neighbor – testified that he had little interaction with Mezzacappa and had no idea why she made the false claims, Baratta said.
Even though Mezzacappa was convicted of a third-degree misdemeanor, Bellafatto asked the court to consider a short prison term given what she felt were the serious underlying racial issues with the case. Were it not for the diligence of state troopers investigating the matter, an innocent man could have found himself in jail, she said.
When the neighbor moved in, Mezzacappa said the community needed to “get that black drug dealer out of the neighborhood” and she used the phrase “tar baby” during the course of the pre-sentencing investigation, according to Bellafatto.
Mezzacappa did not refute the allegations during the hearing.
The judge said he agreed the case involved a racial component but questioned what good even a short prison term would do. Mezzacappa wouldn’t receive any counseling in county jail and she would “just sit and stew” maybe making things worse, Baratta said.
William Worsley Jr., who is black, addressed the court on Mezzacappa’s behalf, attesting to her integrity and telling the court that he’s neither seen nor heard racist behavior from her. When asked by the judge how he could reconcile his comments with Mezzacappa’s statements and actions, Worsley said he could only attest to his experiences with Mezzacappa.
When asked if she wished to address the court, Mezzacappa said she had a prepared statement to read but declined to do so given the “gaslighting nature of this proceeding” and the presence of “fake media” in the courtroom. She did not specify to whom she was referring, but O’Hare with whom she’s had a running feud attended the hearing.
Mezzacappa told the judge that she’d be willing to provide her statement to the victim and his mother, if they wished to read it.
After the sentencing, Bellafatto said the state constable’s association previously informed her that Mezzacappa’s conviction wouldn’t prevent her from performing her duties as an elected constable. But at the time, the association was not aware that she may have had to surrender her firearms, which could affect her ability to do the job, Bellafatto said.
Mezzacappa, who appeared without her court-appointed attorney, told the judge that she’d already appealed her conviction.