On February 22, 2003, 41-year-old Anthony Silvestrini was stabbed three times by his roommate, 40-year-old David Schaaf, after Silvestrini ordered Schaaf to move out of their trailer in Plumstead Township, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
Schaaf was charged with attempted murder, assault and illegal use of a weapon and went on trial in September 2003 in Bucks County Court of Common Pleas.
Silvestrini testified that when he ordered Schaaf to move out Schaaf left the trailer, but returned shortly afterwards and went to his room to pack his possessions. Silvestrini testified that he entered the room to ask if Schaaf needed any help and that Schaaf stabbed him.
Two neighbors testified that Schaaf came out of the trailer yelling for someone to call 911 for help. The neighbors said that Schaaf told them that Silvestrini had attacked him and he had stabbed Silvestrini in self defense. Silvestrini and Schaaf were both treated for knife wounds, though Schaaf’s was a minor wound. Medical records showed that when Silvestrini was brought to the hospital, his blood alcohol content was .245 percent—more than double the legal limit for driving at that time.
On September 10, 2003, Schaaf was convicted by a jury. He was sentenced to 14 to 28 years in prison.
In January 2005, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania reversed the conviction and ordered a new trial. The court ruled that the trial judge had improperly barred the defense from cross-examining Silvestrini about his numerous pending charges for drunken driving and contributing to the delinquency of minors. The court ruled that the evidence was important because the case turned on the credibility of Silvestrini and Schaaf—the only two witnesses to the stabbing.
Schaaf went on trial a second time in May 2006 with a different trial lawyer, J. Michael Farrell, who for the first time played an earlier 911 call that was made prior to the stabbing. In that call, Schaaf said that Silvestrini had punched him in the head and knocked him down. Silvestrini, who outweighed the 145-pound Schaaf by at least 100 pounds, then forced Schaaf to hang up the phone. When a 911 operator called the trailer to see if anyone needed assistance, Silvestrini answered and said there was no problem and that no one needed any help.
Farrell also attacked Silvestrini’s credibility with the evidence of his convictions. The jury acquitted Schaaf on May 22, 2006 and he was released.
– Maurice Possley