DA: Activist's 911 calls ruse to claim bias
PITTSBURGH — Investigators have traced more than 100 bogus 911 calls to the home of a Pittsburgh community activist or his family members’ cellphones in what the county prosecutor said Friday is a ruse to make it appear that city police have it in for the man.
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr. filed a court motion claiming the activist, Abdula Jamal Richardson, 37, hopes to use the ongoing dispute as evidence of police bias against him when he stands trial later this year in an assault and burglary case.
Richardson has contacted media outlets to claim he and his family haven’t made the 911 calls in recent weeks, and to complain that police are abrasive and rude when they respond. Zappala contends Richardson apparently plans to argue at trial that the pending criminal charges resulted from police animus, not wrongdoing on his part. Zappala wants County Judge Anthony Mariani to bar Richardson from introducing any testimony or argument of alleged police bias when the trial begins May 12.
As such, Zappala’s motion includes dozens of pages of police reports detailing the 911 incidents, as well as phone records showing where the calls originated.
Richardson’s defense attorney, Frankie C. Walker II, didn’t immediately return a call for comment.
Richardson’s legal problems aren’t the first he’s faced, nor are they the first he’s blamed on police or racial bias.
Richardson ran a distant fourth in last year’s Democratic mayoral primary, and has said he plans to run for state representative or other political office.
Weeks before the primary, at about 3 a.m. on April 3, 2013, he was arrested and charged with drunken driving after three officers found him slumped over the wheel of his minivan, which was still running.
According to a criminal complaint, Richardson berated the officers — all of whom, like Richardson, are black — for being “subservient to the white man.” He also made a public statement calling the charges a “feeble attempt to discredit me” before issuing an apology hours later and saying he planned to plead guilty.
Richardson did just that in October, and was ordered to serve four days in the county’s so-called “DUI hotel” — an alternative to jail program — pay a $1,000 fine and spend six months on probation.
In the pending case, Richardson is accused of entering a neighbor’s home without permission on Sept. 3, yelling at the man and poking him under the eye, before running away.
Police said Richardson appeared to be drunk, refused to answer their questions and was combative with them.
Walker, the defense attorney, has called the incident a disagreement that got out of hand.