WILKES-BARRE — In an unusual practice before a preliminary hearing, an attorney defending a city man on an open count of criminal homicide has filed court papers seeking to have the most serious charges dismissed.
Attorney Peter Moses filed a memorandum on Wednesday stating his reasons why first-, second- and third-degree murder charges against his client, Shauntae Thomas, should be tossed.
City police and Luzerne County detectives allege Thomas, 36, fired several rounds from a handgun that struck Derrick Cottle, 40, in front of 77 Reno Lane on April 25. Cottle died from multiple gunshot wounds to the head, according to the county coroner’s office.
Investigators say Thomas’ son and Cottle’s son, whose names were not released, were involved in two fights before the deadly shooting. In the second fight, Thomas’ son was struck in the head with an object and knocked unconscious, investigators said.
Historically, defense attorneys wait until after the preliminary hearing or file petitions in county court seeking to have charges dismissed.
Moses filed his memorandum with District Judge Martin Kane and a copy was mailed to the District Attorney’s Office two days before Thomas’ preliminary hearing that is scheduled today. City police and county sheriff deputies are expected to heighten security.
Moses argues Cottle and “his gang” were threatening Thomas and his family in front of Thomas’ house on Reno Lane.
“It is the actions of Cottle and his gang who consciously sought out Mr. Thomas and his son for the purpose of assaulting and killing. It was Cottle and his gang who premeditated by re-assembling, following Mr. Thomas’ son to his home, and proceeding to lay in wait for Mr. Thomas and his son outside their home, before viciously attacking Mr. Thomas’ son in his own yard,” Moses wrote in his memorandum.
Moses wrote that Thomas was overcome with “intense emotion” by seeing his son “savagely beaten by Cottle and his gang.”
Thomas allegedly told police his son ran into his house and told him to “hurry outside.” Thomas said he encountered a group of people, including Cottle and Cottle’s son, in front of his house.
There, Thomas said, Cottle yelled he “wanted to finish things” and there were going to be “bodies laying down” and that they “do homicides,” according to the criminal complaint.
Moses said Thomas intends to present evidence the fatal shooting was self-defense and defense of others because Thomas feared his life and his family’s lives were in danger.