Pittsburgh-area official to be tried in Detroit hotel fracas
Detroit — A Pittsburgh-area elected official was ordered to stand trial Thursday on charges that she obstructed police during an alleged ruckus at a downtown Detroit hotel last month.
During a sometimes-contentious preliminary examination in Detroit's 36th District Court, Judge Ronald Giles ruled there was enough evidence against Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner to bind the case over for trial.
Giles admonished Wagner's attorney Charles Longstreet several times during the hearing for "misrepresenting the evidence," as the attorney cross-examined the day's three prosecution witnesses. Longstreet also called one defense witness.
Wayne County prosecutors allege Wagner interfered with Detroit police officers as they were preparing to remove her husband, Khari Mosley, from the Westin Book Cadillac hotel on March 6. The couple were in Detroit for a concert.
Wagner is charged with two counts of resisting and obstructing the police, a felony carrying a maximum penalty of two years in prison, and one misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct. Mosley also is charged with disorderly conduct, and another misdemeanor, disturbing the peace.
Giles Thursday bound the case over on one count of resisting and obstructing. "I'm not binding over on two counts," he said, adding that only one alleged grappling incident met the standards for a bind-over.
The judge also said Wagner improperly put her hands on a Detroit cop. "An assault doesn't have to be violent to be an assault," he said.
An arraignment on information is scheduled for April 25 in Wayne County Circuit Court.
Mosley was scheduled to attend a pretrial conference Thursday before 36th District Judge Kenneth King. Because his charge is a misdemeanor, there will be no preliminary exam.
Longstreet and fellow defense attorney Thomas Fitzpatrick said they plan to sue the police department and the hotel.
Police body camera footage was shown during Thursday's hearing depicting Wagner berating officers and telling them: "I'm the highest-ranking official in my county." She also said to one of the cops multiple times: "Please Tase me."
The incident began shortly after midnight March 6 with a 911 call about a disturbance at the hotel.
Hotel employee Erica Drew said police were called because Mosley became unruly when staff wouldn't let him up to Room 1002, where his wife was sleeping.
Drew testified Mosley had been barred from the hotel because he wasn't registered, and his last name is different from his wife's.
Another hotel employee, Timothy Scott, said he called 911 on Mosley because of "the way he was acting. He wasn't acting right."
Detroit police officer Edmond Witcher, one of the cops who responded to the 911 call, also took the stand Thursday. He said he put Mosley in his squad car and then went to Wagner's room to see if he was telling the truth.
Witcher's body-cam video was shown in court. He is seen knocking on Wagner's open hotel door and announcing himself as a police officer several times as he and his partner enter the room.
Wagner is seen lying in bed. She starts giggling when police ask her questions.
"I asked if she'd been drinking," Witcher said. "She continued to giggle."
At one point, someone is heard on the video saying: "She's wasted, dude."
The officer asks Wagner for her date of birth and she laughs again. "I'm old," she says. "Too old."
"Come on, ma'am, stop. Be serious," the officer says. "How old are you?"
She replies: "I am 21."
Wagner is 41, according to public records.
After the police confirm that Wagner is married to Mosley, the officers let him out of the squad car. He's seen on video yelling: "Hands up, don't shoot. I'm not a threat."
The group goes back up to the 10th floor to Wagner's room. At one point, the video shows Wagner grabbing Witcher's arm. He asks her: "Why are you putting your hands on me?"
Hotel staff tells the officers they want Mosley to leave the hotel, and the cops tell him he has to vacate the premises. When he doesn't leave, the cops handcuff him and lead him toward the hotel elevator.
The body camera video shows Wagner step in front of the elevator door. Witcher tells her to move out of the way, and she doesn't. When he tries to move her, she again grapples with him. Witcher tries to push her off him; she falls to the ground as the officer appears to try to catch her.
During cross-examination, Longstreet replayed the video, freezing it during the elevator altercation and asking a defense witness, Detroit police officer Jonathan Glowacki: "Your partner shoved Ms. Wagner to the ground, right?"
Judge Giles interjected: "You're misrepresenting that. If you're going to show the video, that means I can see it too. I saw your client grab the officer ... and he pushed her off."
It was one of several times Giles told Longstreet he was misrepresenting the evidence.
In a press release issued when charges were filed against Wagner and Mosley, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy lauded the police officers' actions during the alleged incident.
"The officers involved in this case used remarkable restraint while dealing with the combined actions of these defendants," Worthy said in a statement. "The evidence will show that during the incident Ms. Wagner and Mr. Mosley disparaged the officers and the hotel employees.”
Wagner and Mosley issued a statement through a public relations firm last month saying “our rights were grossly violated.”
Prior to Giles' ruling, Longstreet objected to the case being remanded for trial. He said police should never have gone into Wagner's room.
"Mrs. Wagner holds the constitutional right as a resident of that hotel room to keep the police from coming into that room," he said. "Entering into a hotel room without a warrant is absolutely unlawful.
"Without a search warrant, there was no ... reason to go into the room," Longstreet said. "Under the Fourth Amendment, she gets to say 'no, you can't come into this room.'"
The judge rejected the argument.
"This is the problem I’m having," the judge said. "They used their discretion, trying to de-escalate the situation ranter than arrest them — and from the video I saw they probably could have. Instead, they took them up to the room and said, ‘sleep it off.’ "
Giles added of Wagner: "She was putting her hands on that officer. An assault doesn't have to be violent." But he didn't arrest her then; he was willing to walk away.
"She was forcefully holding onto the officer; the officer then pushed her off of him, and she went down to the floor," the judge said.