Witness: Pittsburgh-area official grappled with cop
Detroit — A security guard testified Thursday that a Pittsburgh-area official grappled with a Detroit cop during an incident eight months ago at a downtown hotel and warned him "you don't know who you're messing with."
Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner is accused of interfering with Detroit police officers on March 6 as they were preparing to remove her husband, Khari Mosley, from the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel. The couple were in Detroit for a concert.
Wagner, who easily won re-election to her third term as county controller Nov. 5, is charged with resisting and obstructing the police, a felony carrying a maximum penalty of two years in prison, and one misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct.
Wagner's attorneys insisted she did nothing wrong, and that she merely was standing up for herself and her husband against overly aggressive cops.
Thursday's three witnesses, all hotel staff, testified Mosley came into the lobby and loudly demanded he be allowed into Wagner's hotel room. When hotel employees explained that policy prevented them from letting him into the room because his name wasn't on the registry, the witnesses said Mosley became belligerent.
"He was very erratic ... very emotional ... very upset," said Erika Drew, the hotel's night audit lead. "I tried to calm the situation down. I was just reiterating we cannot give a key without your name being on the room.
“(Security) told him he had to leave," Drew said. "“He was close to my face and was spitting ... he was definitely cursing, and saying 'put me out, put me out.' He’s too close for comfort. That’s too close for my father to be. It’s a personal space thing.”
Hotel staff eventually called Detroit police, and, according to Thursday's witnesses, the situation escalated.
Timothy Scott, a loss prevention officer at the downtown Detroit hotel, said after the police arrived, they escorted Mosley up to Wagner's room. The cops had a brief conversation with Wagner, and then walked Mosley toward an elevator.
"As the officers were trying to go in (the elevator), she stood in the doorway to obstruct them from getting in," Scott testified. "She’s blocking the door.
"One of the police officers squeezes past her to get on the elevator, and she literally starts pulling on the officer’s arm, and in the process of her pulling on him she slides to the ground," Scott said. "He takes his hand off Mr. Mosley and pays attention to her.
"She was tugging at him, like ‘let my husband go,’" Scott said. "(The officer) took himself away from Mr. Mosley, walked over to her and put his handcuffs on her. She said ‘I’m (the) highest effing official in Pennsylvania; you don’t know who you’re messing with.'"
During his opening statement, defense attorney Charles Longstreet said Wagner was merely exercising her rights.
"This case is about an American citizen and her right to say no to inappropriate police action … an American citizen who deserved respect for herself, her husband, her marriage and her constitutional rights."
Prosecutors announced last week they'd offered Wagner a deal to plead guilty to disturbing the peace, without having to report for probation. Longstreet told the judge she rejected the deal.
If Wagner is found guilty, she could be forced to resign, as Pennsylvania law prohibits anyone convicted of "infamous crimes" from holding public office.
Mosley was charged with disorderly conduct and another misdemeanor, disturbing the peace, in connection with the March incident, and a jury in July acquitted him. Wagner's attorneys are not allowed to mention his acquittal during her trial.
Wagner's lawyers also are not allowed to mount a defense that she was defending her husband against an illegal arrest.
"That won't be our defense," Longstreet said in court prior to Thursday's hearing.
Wagner has maintained her innocence, insisting police overstepped their boundaries during the incident, which began shortly after midnight March 6 with a 911 call about a disturbance at the hotel.
The prosecution’s witness list includes a 911 dispatcher, several Detroit police officers and detectives, Mosley and hotel staff. Mosley is the only defense witness listed.
Testimony is set to resume Monday. Wayne Circuit Judge Dalton Roberson said the trial likely will wrap up by then.