Pittsburgh-area official to again stand trial for alleged obstruction of Detroit police

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — A Pittsburgh-area official will again stand trial on charges stemming from a March confrontation with police in a downtown Detroit hotel after her first trial resulted in a hung jury.

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner was charged with resisting and obstructing police, a felony that carries a penalty of two years, and one count of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor. 

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner

On Nov. 20, a jury of nine women and three men found Wagner not guilty of disorderly conduct but could not reach a verdict on the more serious charge, and a mistrial was declared.

Wagner is accused of interfering with Detroit cops on 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.

The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office issued a statement Friday confirming the second trial is scheduled for April 20. A pretrial conference was held Friday before Wayne Circuit Judge Regina Thomas.

"Due to a problem with the video feed Ms. Wagner’s presence in court was waived," the press release said. "She must appear in court on March 30, 2020, at 9:00 a.m. for any pre-trial motions."

In a written release, Wagner's attorney, Charles Longstreet, said his client was offered a plea deal Friday.

"During the brief hearing, during which there were intermittent delays, the prosecution attempted to have Wagner accept any plea deal; however, Wagner again, through her attorney, indicated that she, as a victim of the Westin hotel and police wrongdoing, would in no way accept a plea bargain to justify their cover-up," the release said.

Assistant Prosecutor Maria Miller said in a statement Friday: "Ms. Wagner has a remaining felony charge of Resisting and Obstructing the Police. We will be proceeding to trial on April 20, 2020.  We have no further comment about the matter.”

Last month, after the mistrial was declared, Wagner told reporters she felt vindicated and expressed the hope the case would not be retried.

"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."

Shortly after Wagner's statement, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a release that “reasonable minds can disagree, but we accept the verdict of the jury regarding their not guilty verdict on the misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct." 

Worthy declined further comment.

During three days of testimony, Longstreet 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 during the trial that Wagner had 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.

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.

If Wagner is found guilty in the second trial, she could be forced to resign, as Pennsylvania law prohibits anyone convicted of "infamous crimes" from holding public office.