ZAPPALA UNDER FIRE…DA orders no plea deals to Black attorney or his clients — Community in an uproar – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 2021-06-10 10:33:45 –

Rob Taylor Junior
Courier staff writer

The verbal battle between local black lawyer Milton Ryford and Allegheny County District Lawyer Stephen Zappala Jr. was a hotter Zappala fire than Pittsburgh’s recent heat wave.

Tim Stevens, Chairman and CEO of the Black Political Empowerment Project, hopes Zappala will resign or be removed from his post. So is the Summerley state legislator, whose constituency includes part of Montvalley.

Ed Gainey, a Democratic candidate for Mayor of Pittsburgh, apologized for his actions and “opened his office to all investigations on this issue to maintain public confidence in the performance of his duties. Demand that you do.

Tribune-Review published an article on June 2, and through an email sent on May 18, Zappala ordered all deputy prosecutors not to offer judicial transactions to Rayford or his clients. I made it clear. On May 13, five days before Zappala’s email, Rayford took no punch at his idea that DA’s office was “systematically racist.” He also said that the criminal justice system was systematically racist and that systematic racism was well established in Pittsburgh. Raiford made a record comment in the court of Judge Anthony Mariani of Common Pleas.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala JR. , A longtime DA who has been sought to resign by Tim Stevens, Chairman and CEO of the Black Political Empowerment Project, and Congressman Summer Lee.

“It’s very disappointing that there were no comments from the District Attorney’s Office, administrative judges in this department, or the Supreme Court in this county. They seem to be entirely so. Nationally. Ignoring the direction in which the wind is blowing, all these people are shot for free, and they are all dying for free, “said the court record first reported by Tribune-Review, Raiford. Said. “And we are about to return to normal.”

Many of Pittsburgh’s black communities were appalled by Zappala’s actions in response to Rayford’s comment that Zappala abused his power as a district attorney. If Zappala was personally angry with Rayford’s comments, people like Stevens couldn’t believe Zappala would take any action that could legally hurt Rayford’s clients.

Tim StevensOn the podium in the photo above, at a press conference on June 3, he said of Allegheny County DA Stephen Zappara Jr. African-American Lawyer Milton Rifford’s all clients, or a lawyer about it … It’s time for another individual to sit at the District Attorney’s Office in Allegheny County. It’s time for Mr. Zappala to resign. “

“Are you kidding me?” Stevens said at a press conference in the Hill area on June 3rd: Rayford asked for weeks and months to meet with DA Zappala and share his concerns before commenting, but he didn’t respond. It may be something about Mr. Zappala that shows such contempt for African-American lawyers who have served clients for many years in western Pennsylvania. “

Zappala said in a statement on June 3 that Rifford “misrepresented to the court the plea that another district attorney offered to one of his clients in another case.” There was too much charge. However, Mr. Zappala said the particular case also included a charge of weapons against the defendant, “the lawyer (Rifford) did not disclose it to the court.”

Milton Rayford, A longtime Pittsburgh lawyer who called the Allegheny County Law Firm “systematically a racist.” (Photo courtesy of WTAE-TV)

Zappala’s statement concludes: “In order for this office to make consistent evidence-based decisions and avoid false allegations of racial discrimination against this office and its assistant district attorney, I accept the plea offer expressed by the lawyer. I took the desire not to want to take it seriously and directed it. My deputy district attorney commemorates the plea discussion with this lawyer and will not offer him a plea without the approval of the front office. “

Still, people like the American Civil Liberties Union in Pennsylvania didn’t buy what Zappala was selling.

“It is unethical to order the DA to totally ban individual lawyer clients from offering judicial transactions. This is also a violation of the First Amendment to the US Constitution. If true, these The claim is very alarming, “Pa said. ACLU of Reggie Shuford, Executive Director of the, said in a statement.

“The district attorneys are some of the most powerful people in the criminal law system. They determine what accusations are filed against individuals and what criminal proceedings result from those accusations. Powerful. The allegation that DA Zappara has instructed his subordinates to completely refuse to offer judicial transactions to lawyer clients who have criticized DA’s office underscores its vast power. Indeed, retaliation for a lawyer complaining about racial discrimination in a DA office by refusing to offer a judicial transaction to a client is undoubtedly evidence of prejudice. We call for full accountability to Mr. Zappara and his office and a prompt and comprehensive investigation into these allegations by the Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and Justice Secretary Josh Shapiro. “

In a statement, Elizabeth Hughes, chairman of the Allegheny County Bar Association, said, “We learned of the allegheny county district attorney Stephen Zappala’s allegedly issued e-mail to the deputy prosecutor and instructed them to decline. I was disappointed to know. ” Offers plea bargaining to clients of specific lawyers who have complained about the District Attorney’s Office and the criminal justice system. This alleged immunity from the district attorney gives criminal defendants the rights guaranteed under the Sixth Amendment by impairing access to the judiciary and effectively denying the rights of the defense counsel of these particular clients. Interfere. If these instructions from the district attorney Zappala were implemented, this would be unethical and retaliatory against the criminal defendant, based on the ideological differences between the district attorney and his counsel. Such a response by the district attorney only works to promote unequal treatment in the criminal justice system. The purpose of the District Attorney’s Office is to serve the people of this federal government. The ACBA opposes any action that unfairly assesses the scale of justice or deprives individuals of the rights guaranteed to all of us under the Constitution. “

On Monday, June 7, Zappala announced a “corrected” policy regarding plea. “If a defendant without a lawyer or agent raises concerns that the judicial transaction treats the defendant differently because of the defendant’s protected position, the assistant district attorney will make a claim when the lawyer or the defendant makes a claim. All the facts that rely on the defendant shall be obtained. The claim of the lawyer or the defendant is comparable to that of the defendant. “Then, Zappara, the assistant DA investigates the facts and assists the investigation if necessary. He said he would notify the overseeing Deputy DA or Zappara’s office of the matter in order to seek comment on the appropriate plea bargaining.

Zappala saw his first real competition for DA seats in the 2019 elections when African-American Turan Jenkins opposed him. Jenkins, a former Deputy Chief of the Allegheny County Civil Service Office, was defeated in 59-41% of the elections, but part of Pittsburgh’s black community is so high in the county, which is only 14% black. I praised the acquisition of the percentage. And for white people who had an office for 20 years.

A year before the election, Zappala was criticized for handling his office in prosecution of former East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rossfeld, who shot and killed a 17-year-old black teen Antowon Rose II while Rose was fleeing police. Was there. Rosfeld was acquitted on all charges in March 2019.

Who knows how this latest controversy surrounding Zappala will affect his future as an Allegheny County District Attorney? But if it’s up to Stevens, B-PEP’s chairman and CEO, Zappala will be out.

“The last thing we need in Allegheny County is to ask his staff to act against all clients of African-American lawyer Milton Ryford, or attorneys about it. Having a ruthless district attorney to direct, “Stevens said on June 3. Review the percentage of black residents in Allegheny County and think that there may be a problem with the Allegheny County judicial system. In order for the district attorney to potentially “stack” these horrific statistics by not qualifying Mr. Rayford’s clients for so-called “judicial transactions,” it must be some form of district attorney’s misconduct. not. His actions are ruthless, unethical and unfavorable. It’s time for another individual to sit at the District Attorney’s Office in Allegheny County. It’s time for Mr. Zappala to resign. “

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