Charges dropped in Allegheny rape case delayed by paperwork glitch
Allegheny County prosecutors on Wednesday dropped most charges against a Wilkinsburg man whose long wait for a trial on rape charges exposed communication problems between investigators, court officials and the District Attorney's Office.
David L. Bradford, 33, pleaded no contest to unlawful restraint in exchange for prosecutors dropping seven charges connected to the September 2008 attack. Common Pleas Judge Donna Jo McDaniel sentenced him to two years of probation.
“They came in and made an offer that we really couldn't refuse,” said Kevin Abramovitz, Bradford's lawyer. “I think the commonwealth recognized we weren't backing down and saw the weaknesses and limitations in their case.”
District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said his office offered a plea deal because the victim did not want to testify. There was other evidence, but “it hinged on certain aspects (of the victim's) testimony,” he said.
“Charging something and proving something sometimes are two different matters,” Zappala said.
Bradford spent more than a year in jail, unable to post $100,000 bond, without a trial after a hearing before Wilkinsburg District Judge Kim Hoots on charges he raped a woman at knifepoint.
Common Pleas Judge Randal B. Todd dismissed the charges in November 2009 under Rule 600, which requires the commonwealth bring defendants to trial within 180 days if they are in custody.
A Superior Court panel initially upheld Todd's decision. A ruling written by Zappala's predecessor, Judge Robert Colville, cited a “lack of due diligence” by prosecutors, who said they did not get paperwork from the hearing.
The state Supreme Court reversed that and ordered the case to proceed, blaming the delay on Hoots' office.
Hoots could not be reached for comment.
Court officials said they could not pinpoint the reason why Bradford's paperwork did not get from Wilkinsburg to Downtown.
District court administrator Claire Capristo said officials made no changes to the way documents are sent from the 48 satellite courts to the courthouse. The district courts send some documents electronically. Original signed paperwork is sent by mail.
“It just seemed to be an inadvertent act,” Capristo said of Bradford's case.
Zappala said Wilkinsburg police were at least partially to blame for shortcomings of the investigation.
“There is a very substantial difference in abilities of police agencies,” he said. “Some are good at what they do. Some are not as good at investigating certain kinds of crimes.”
Wilkinsburg police Chief Ophelia Coleman did not return calls.
Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins notebook: Bennett a healthy scratch
- Derail ‘fast track’
- Saturday essay: A new (& blue) feeder
- Catholic Education Week: School choice & more
- Right on radar searches
- NFL notebook: Manning would like to make decision on NFL future soon
- Punishing innocents
- Who’s hiding?
- Wall Street closes January on down note; Dow sheds 251 points
- In memory of ‘Lee’ Elby
- Rushing to stop Obama