Jury acquits Pittsburgh-area official on 1 count in cop confrontation, deadlocks on another

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — A jury of nine women and three men Wednesday found a Pittsburgh-area official not guilty of disturbing the peace during a confrontation with Detroit police but could not reach a verdict on a more serious charge of resisting and obstructing officers.

After the verdict was announced, Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner said she felt vindicated — and expressed hope Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy wouldn't try her again on the felony count.

"How much tax money has already been spent on this?" Wagner said. "As the controller who takes care of the taxes in my county, it was outrageous to spend tax dollars on the first trial, and it'll be even worse if we have to go through this again." 

Worthy said in a press release: "Reasonable minds can disagree, but we accept the verdict of the jury regarding their not guilty verdict on the misdemeanor count of Disorderly Conduct. I will not comment further at this time because the felony charge of Resisting and Obstructing the Police is pending."

A pretrial conference has been set for Dec. 20.

Wagner was accused of interfering with Detroit cops March 6 as they prepared to remove her husband, Khari Mosley, from the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel, after staff said he was being unruly. The couple were in Detroit for a concert.

Several times during the trial, Wayne Circuit Judge Dalton Roberson admonished the attorneys in the case. He repeatedly told Wagner's attorney Charles Longstreet to "sit down and keep quiet" after the lawyer's objections.

After Wednesday's hearing, Longstreet was asked if he felt the trial was fair.

"Not really," he said. "But if I have to fight with the judge, then I'll fight with the judge to support my client."

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner outside Frank Murphy Hall of Justice

During three days of testimony, Longstreet and co-counsel Kevin Mincey argued Wagner was the victim of overzealous cops who barged into her hotel room and violated her civil rights before they slammed her to the ground.

Assistant Wayne County prosecutor Erika Tursar insisted Wagner obstructed police officers and acted like an entitled politician who "doesn't think the rules apply to her" and who "pulled the 'do-you-know-who-I-am?' card" when she told the cops she was the highest-ranking elected official in her county.

The jurors deliberated about six hours over two days before reaching the verdict on the disturbing the peace charge, but could not reach a consensus on the obstruction charge.

Erika Eloff of Northville — Juror #3 — said she didn't think Wagner was guilty on either of the charges, although she said she was in the minority regarding the obstruction count.

"I could not with a clear conscience say she was guilty, because there were too many missing pieces to this," Eloff said. "But many of the other jurors didn't feel that way. They felt it was black-and-white, and that the video clearly showed she was guilty. I'd say it was about 9-3 for guilty."

Chris White, director of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, echoed Wagner's hope that there isn't a retrial.

"We're concerned about the use of taxpayer money," he said. 

On the night of the incident, hotel staff dialed 911 to report Mosley was being disruptive. When officers arrived, they put Mosley into a squad car before going to Wagner's room to verify Mosley's claim that he was a guest, despite his name not being on the hotel registry.

Wagner testified she felt "powerless" and "terrified" when Detroit police officers Edmond Witcher and Jonathan Glowacki entered her hotel room while she was in bed.

The officers' body-camera video showed the door to Room 1002 was ajar. They announced their presence before entering the room.

After briefly talking with Wagner, the two cops escorted Mosley up to the room. As the officers walked away, they testified they heard a thumping noise, and returned to the room to investigate.

Wagner came into the corridor and the officers' body-worn cameras show a brief argument, and Witcher complaining that she had put her hands on him. There was another confrontation outside the hotel elevator, and after Wagner and Witcher grappled, he handcuffed her.

Witcher testified Wagner grabbed his arm, while Wagner's attorneys insisted the officer had touched her first.

The resisting and obstructing charge is a felony carrying a maximum penalty of two years in prison. If there's a second trial and Wagner is found guilty, she could be forced to resign, as Pennsylvania law prohibits anyone convicted of "infamous crimes" from holding public office.


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Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN