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District attorney has 'number of issues' with Adams stabbing case

| Thursday, May 1, 2014, 1:57 p.m.
Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala answers questions from the media during a Center for Victims press conference in Market Square, Downtown, Thursday, April 10, 2014.

A lawyer for one of the three men acquitted of stabbing and carjacking Pittsburgh Steelers lineman Mike Adams said on Thursday he is “troubled and disappointed” that Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. questioned whether one of his witnesses lied on the stand.

“I'm extremely disappointed that he would undermine the jurors,” said Bill Difenderfer, the lawyer for Jerrell Whitlock. “I don't recall seeing him in the courtroom.”

A jury on Wednesday acquitted Whitlock, 27, Michael Paranay, 26, and Dquay Means, 26, all of Hazelwood, of the most serious charges they faced in the altercation outside the Cambod-Ican Kitchen in the South Side early on June 1.

Paranay was released from the Allegheny County Jail on Thursday afternoon. Means and Whitlock, both of whom were convicted of fleeing police, remained there.

Earlier in the day, Zappala said there were “a number of things that bother me,” citing the testimony of an Edgewood woman who said she witnessed the encounter between Adams and the three men, as well as the way Common Pleas Judge Anthony M. Mariani handled the case.

“There are a number of issues we absolutely disagree with,” Zappala said. He cannot appeal the jury's decision.

Defense witness Shariea Cox, 26, testified last week that she was celebrating her birthday and waiting for food outside a restaurant when she heard a commotion from around the corner and witnessed the incident.

On the stand, Cox said she heard Paranay say, “Why can't you just pay for it. That's all I'm asking,” to which Adams responded, “I'm not paying for (anything). … Do you know who the (expletive) I am?”

Cox said that's when she saw Paranay punch Adams in the face and run away. She could not be reached for comment.

At trial, Assistant District Attorney Christopher Stone, who prosecuted the case, asked Cox how she became a witness. Cox said she didn't know.

Difenderfer told the Tribune-Review that a private investigator learned from other witnesses that Cox was in the South Side the night of the incident and subpoenaed her.

Although Zappala appeared most concerned about the validity of Cox's testimony, Difenderfer said the defense prevailed because the prosecution's case rested primarily on Adams' first-hand account that Means showed him a gun, Paranay punched him and Whitlock stabbed him.

The defense called Adams' story into question by showing how it changed three times. Adams also was drunk. They claimed Adams had a motive to lie because he was on thin ice with the team from testing positive for marijuana before the 2012 NFL draft.

“If Mr. Zappala thinks that Adams was a witness who could be counted on beyond a reasonable doubt, I think he really needs to consider his evaluation of trials,” Difen­derfer said.

Fred Rabner, Means' lawyer, said Zappala was simply upset about losing a high-profile case.

“It's totally sour grapes,” Rabner said.

Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-9027 or abrandolph@tribweb.com.

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