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Federal appeals panel orders new trial for Penn Hills man

| Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014, 4:55 p.m.

A Penn Hills man will get a new trial on a firearm charge because prosecutors introduced evidence of previous crimes that was not relevant to the case, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

A federal jury in 2012 convicted Ebon P.D. Brown, 29, of being a felon in possession of a firearm. U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti sentenced him to serve seven years and eight months in prison.

Pittsburgh police charged Brown when one officer spotted the gun under the driver's seat of an illegally parked car he had just exited. Four officers testified that they saw him hide something under the seat after he spotted them patrolling the Hill District in an unmarked car. He said the gun belonged to his girlfriend and that she had put it under the seat without his knowledge.

During the trial, prosecutors introduced evidence that Brown in 2005 had someone else buy guns that he could not legally purchase. Conti ruled the evidence was relevant to whether he knew the gun was in the car, but a three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it was not relevant.

The judges split, 2-1, in deciding the irrelevant evidence so tainted the case that Brown deserves a new trial. They remanded the case back to Conti.

Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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