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Attorneys ask for change of venue in trial of man accused of killing Penn Hills police officer and another man

| Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, 3:48 p.m.

A Homewood man accused of killing a Penn Hills police officer and another man can't get a fair trial in Allegheny County because prosecutors released information about a proposed plea bargain to the media that “tainted” the jury pool.

Defense attorney Patrick Thomassey said in a motion requesting a change of venue for the trial of Ronald Robinson that current and potential jurors were tainted last week when Mike Manko, a spokesman for the district attorney's office, told reporters that his office had rejected a plea deal that would have sent Robinson away for two life terms without the possibility of parole.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Robinson, 35, who is charged with the Dec. 6, 2009, fatal shootings of Officer Michael Crawshaw, 32, and Danyal Morton, 40, of Penn Hills. Police said Robinson killed Morton in a Penn Hills home over a $500 drug debt, left the house and fired at Crawshaw, striking the officer several times while he still was in his patrol car.

Both Manko and Thomassey declined comment.

In the motion filed on Friday, Thomassey said Manko “unilaterally and without warning to counsel” released the information.

“The proposal was not made in open court, nor was it intended to be communicated to any party beyond those required to make a decision as to whether or not to accept the proposed plea,” Thomassey said.

Prosecutors rejected the plea after speaking with the victims' families. Manko wouldn't disclose what relatives of Crawshaw and Morton said.

Jury selection in the case began on Nov. 26. Eight jurors have been seated. Opening statements are scheduled to begin on Jan. 3.

Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or abrandolph@tribweb.com.

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