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Pittsburgh's former postmaster to call coworkers as witnesses in trial

| Friday, May 27, 2016, 10:24 p.m.

Pittsburgh's former postmaster will call witnesses at his trial in July who will say he turned over shipments of drugs and money he intercepted by opening packages in area post offices, his attorney said.

Daniel Davis, 50, was charged with witness intimidation last year for allegedly threatening postal employees who'd seen him opening Express Mail packages containing drugs in 2014, but defense attorney Joe Chester said Davis threatened no one and had no reason to because his supervisors and postal inspectors in Pittsburgh and at his former post in Toledo knew he was opening mail to stop shipments of drugs and money.

At Davis' jury trial before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge David Cashman, scheduled for July 17, Chester is seeking to call managers and postal employees from Toledo and Pittsburgh who observed and documented as Davis opened packages and turned them over to postal authorities.

“He engaged in this 600 times in Toledo and 200 times in Pittsburgh at the request of postal inspectors. ... It happened in the open,” Chester said. “Now someone, the District Attorney's Office, is pretending it's a secret.”

But the U.S. Attorney's Office, which has declined prosecuting Davis for the federal offense of opening mail while the state's witness intimidation case moves forward, told Chester to have his witnesses follow federal rules for government witnesses established by the Supreme Court's 1951 “Touhy” ruling. It requires them to submit an affidavit or summary of their proposed testimony for approval to ensure they aren't going to disclose any government secrets.

“This case doesn't involve any state secrets or water-boarding or the like,” Chester wrote in an email to the U.S. Attorney's Office opposing the directive. “The paradigm of Touhy (to protect government secrets) is not applicable at all.”

In motions argued this week, Chester hoped to have Cashman compel the U.S. Attorney's Office to help secure those approvals, but Cashman denied his motion.

Chester said he would go through the required process for getting the witnesses to testify. Other witnesses, he said, could prove that several of the employees who accused Davis of intimidating them were conspiring to make false accusations.

Prosecutors were not available for comment on Chester's motions Friday. Cashman has not yet ruled on Assistant District Attorney Brian Catanzarite's motion to allow the trial to address the federal crime of opening mail, even though Davis has not been charged for it.

Catanzarite argued at an earlier hearing that he needed to bring up the potential federal offense as motivation for the threats.

Matthew Santoni is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him msantoni@tribweb.com.

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