Posted on Sat, Apr. 17, 2010
Temple law student ordered to trial in shooting
By MENSAH M. DEAN
Philadelphia Daily Newsdeanm@phillynews.com
Gerald Ung, the third-year Temple University law school student charged with shooting a Villanova University graduate five times in front of the Fox29 studios in January, must go to trial, a Philadelphia judge said yesterday.
Despite arguments during the preliminary hearing from defense attorney Jack McMahon that Ung, 28, acted in self-defense after being confronted by four men, Philadelphia Municipal Judge David Shuter said his ruling was based on the number of bullets fired at vital body parts.
Ung, out on bail, is charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault, possession of an instrument of crime, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person in the shooting of Edward DiDonato Jr. at 2:30 a.m. on Jan. 17.
Shuter dismissed two additional gun charges because Ung had a valid handgun permit from his home state of Virginia. Ung has withdrawn from law school and returned to live with his family in Arlington, Va., until his legal case is completed, McMahon said.
DiDonato, 23, son of Center City lawyer Edward DiDonato Sr. and nephew of city Republican leader Michael Meehan, is being treated at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital for paralysis of the bowels, bladder, sexual organs and left foot, said Assistant District Attorney Jan McDermott.
"This is a situation where the gun changes everything. Certainly, there was alcohol involved; both sides were drinking that night. "What years ago may have ended in a fistfight," she added, "unfortunately ended in the paralysis of a 23-year-old kid," she said.
McMahon contended that Ung - who was with two Temple University doctoral-candidate friends - was the victim of drunken bullies at 4th and Market streets.
"Four guys are drunk and they think they can bully anybody they want, say whatever they want and do whatever they want," McMahon said.
"He did not pull out any gun for a long period of time until he was rushed at by another individual," McMahon added.
Just one witness was called to testify yesterday - Seth Webster, one of DiDonato's three friends present at the shooting. After leaving an Old City bar, his group stopped at 4th and Market, where one friend started doing pull-ups on scaffolding, he said.
Ung and a female and male friend soon approached, and the female friend started doing pull-ups as well, Webster said.
Ung became upset and heated words were exchanged, Webster said.
One of the men, Tom Kelly, tried to rush Ung, but the woman with Ung stepped between them and was bumped, Webster said.
At this, Webster testified, Ung pulled his gun, pointed it at Kelly and waved it at him and DiDonato while saying, "Back the f--- up."
DiDonato said, "Who you gonna shoot?" and moved toward Ung, Webster said.
When Ung kicked at DiDonato to keep him back, DiDonato grabbed at Ung's leg, said Webster. As he fell backward, Ung began firing, according to Webster, and fired several more shots from the ground. After DiDonato had fallen, Ung appeared in shock, knelt beside the fallen man, touched his leg and called 9-1-1 on his cell phone, said Webster, who also called.