PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — An unsolved crime in the Hill District nearly two years ago is the subject of a campaign attack against the Allegheny County District Attorney.
Four young men were jailed, pending trial, for 15 months before being released last month when their alibis were found credible.
Who’s to blame for their incarceration is the issue.
Independent district attorney candidate Lisa Middleman delivered a sharp indictment of her opponent, Stephen Zappala, on Monday.
“I don’t think he cares about the truth, I don’t think he cares about any of the people that are involved in the criminal justice system,” Middleman told 15 to 20 supporters in the Allegheny County Courthouse. “I think Steve Zappala cares about Steve Zappala and his political future.”
“That’s very, very offensive,” Zappala responded. “She’s been very personal about this stuff,” the district attorney told KDKA political editor Jon Delano.
Middleman accused Zappala of jailing four teens for 15 months for shooting three youngsters in the Hill District, despite evidence each had credible alibis.
“Not only have four children lost 15 months of their lives, but the police have lost 15 months in which to investigate and locate violent criminals,” says Middleman.
Zappala says the four were identified by one of the victims, and it was defense counsel who failed to report the alibis.
“Under the rules, the defense criminal attorneys have an obligation to come forward if you have an alibi defense,” says Zappala.
Although the crime occurred in November 2017 and a grand jury indicted in June 2018, Zappala says defense counsel didn’t come forward with an alibi until March of 2019.
Delano: Are you saying defense counsel were at fault here?
Zappala: Yes, absolutely.
But Middleman blames the DA for using inexperienced investigators and a secret grand jury process.
“The decisions made by the district attorney’s office created this situation,” she claims.
Now Zappala, who has been district attorney since 1998, is on the ballot as both a Democrat and a Republican.
Middleman is the independent candidate running.
Voters will decide the next district attorney four weeks from Tuesday, November 5.