By MICHAEL P. RELLAHAN, firstname.lastname@example.org
WEST CHESTER – A former Chester police officer who had been charged with beating his wife during a domestic dispute in their Pocopson home pleaded guilty to misdemeanor simple assault charges in Common Pleas Court Wednesday.
As a result of the plea, Ernest A. “Ernie” Manerchia was forbidden from owning any firearms in the future, and as such ordered to give up ownership of the small arsenal of guns that he kept in the home he shared with his wife, Maryann Manerchia.
In addition to 47 guns that Manerchia had legally owned, he had to forfeit to the Pennsylvania State Police two weapons that he technically owned improperly, including a sawed-off shotgun and a machine gun, according to prosecution officials. Agents from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives were in Judge David Bortner’s courtroom during the plea hearing as observers.
The legal weapons will be transferred to a federally licensed firearms dealer, who will sell them for the veteran officer.
Manerchia, a beefy 57-year-old with a reddish brown beard and dressed in the dark gray suit, blue shirt, and yellow tie, had little to say during the 15 minute-long proceeding. He answered “yes” and “no” to questions Bortner put to him about the rights he was giving up by entering into the guilty plea, but declined to say anything about the case to the judge when asked for a statement.
As part of a plea agreement worked out between Deputy District Attorney Michelle Frei, who prosecuted the case, and Manerchia’s attorneys, William Davis and John List of Media, the decorated officer was sentenced to 12 days to 23 months in Chester County Prison. The 12 days were the amount of time he spent incarcerated in January following his arrest on a bail violation. Felony charges of aggravated assault that had been filed against him were withdrawn.
Davis, who stood next to Manerchia when he entered the plea, said the experience had been difficult for his client.
He said Manerchia had been a member of the Chester SWAT Team, had organized its dive rescue team, and had served with distinction in the Delaware County police department for 23 years.
“He’s never been in trouble with the law before,” Davis told a reporter after the plea hearing. Unemployed since his resignation from the department following his arrest, he now lives in the West Grove area of southern Chester County and spends time with his family, Davis said.
“Obviously, this is an unfortunate incident,” Davis said. “”He is trying to get his life back in order.”
According to the facts that Frei read into the record concerning the assault on Maryanne Manerchia, the couple had been arguing on Nov. 11 at their home when Manerchia struck her in the face and grabbed her by the hair, so forcefully that he pulled a clump of hair from her head.
He then grabbed her by the throat and started to choke her, but she was able to kick him several times and break free. Court records indicate that she reported the case to state police at Avondale in January, and Manerchia was charged on Jan. 10.
He was ordered to surrender the gun he owned and kept at his home when arrested, but he apparently kept some from state police when they searched the home. When Maryanne Manerchia went to the house on Jan. 11 to look for guns still kept there, she found a loaded AK-47, which she unloaded, according to court records. While she was looking for other weapons, Manerchia came into the house and re-loaded the semi-automatic rifle.
His appearance at the house while she was there was a violation of his bail, and he was picked up and taken to Chester County Prison, where he stayed until Jan. 22 after waiving his preliminary hearing on being re-released on bail.
Maryanne Manerchia did not appear at the hearing. The couple, married for 20 years, are now estranged.