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Mayoral candidate Richardson admits traffic arrests, hearings over unpaid rent

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By Adam Brandolph and Salena Zito
Saturday, March 16, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

A Sheraden man running for mayor of Pittsburgh acknowledged on Friday a record of traffic-related arrests and court appearances for failing to pay rent to three landlords.

Voter-registration records show that Abdula Jamal Richardson moved to Munhall in 2008 and moved four times since — most recently from Clairton to Pittsburgh in January 2012.

The city's home-rule charter requires anyone running for mayor to live in Pittsburgh for three years prior to the election.

Richardson said voters still should consider him a man of integrity and honesty, despite the arrests, one of which earned him a night in jail. None of the incidents rose to Common Pleas Court, and Richardson said his run-ins with the law should not prevent him from serving as mayor if he would win.

“I have faults and flaws, and I am building to being a better person,” said Richardson, 36, the acknowledged underdog in a six-person Democratic race.

State Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park, on Friday quit the race.

“I want people to look at my flaws and see that I have found a way to get back from my flaws,” Richardson said Friday. “The working man can understand being behind on bills. They don't want a lap dog for the rich to be mayor, who can't understand struggles.”

He acknowledged that he did not pay landlord Joe Brown Jr. despite a February 2011 judgment, by District Judge Robert Ravenstahl, that he owed $1,963.50 for rent and court costs. Case records list the address for Abdullah Richardson and wife Felicia as simply Pittsburgh.

The judge is the father of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, who is not seeking re-election.

Brown contacted the Tribune-Review by email after reading about Richardson's candidacy, saying he has “been trying to track him down for about three years. (He) and his wife were evicted from a home I own, and a significant judgment was levied upon them that was never settled.”

Brown declined comment, but said the judgment was for three months rent at a Brighton Heights house.

Richardson acknowledged not paying Brown the settlement.

“I am not going to pay him because he never did the things he said he was going to do,” Richardson said. “He got the judgment in his favor because no one came to court that day.”

Brown claimed “that we left the premises in an unconditional fashion, which is not the case. We cleared the house of all items, placing garbage in the back of the house (where it was always picked up),” Felicia Richardson said in an email Friday. “I can definitely clarify one thing — we do not owe this man back rent.”

In November 2011, Richard Miller claimed Richardson owed him money for overdue rent — stated to be $550 monthly — at an apartment outside Clairton. Miller sought $2,050. District Judge Armand Martin ordered Richardson to pay $2,185.60, including the court costs.

Richardson said he never received anything on paper regarding Miller.

Miller said he “never received a penny.”

“It got to the point that I actually had to go out and rent a U-Haul to get him out of the apartment,” Miller said.

In October 2009, McKees Rocks District Judge Carla Swearingen issued a $1,633 judgment against Richardson for rent owed to Crafton Holdings, owner of a public-housing complex. Richardson said he worked out a settlement with Crafton Holdings that included working as “a community liaison.”

The manager of Crafton Heights Townhomes, now called Mountain View, did not return a phone call to confirm that Richardson worked there.

In nominating petitions filed Tuesday with the Allegheny County Elections Division, Richardson listed his occupation as a bus monitor for First Student in the North Side.

In an email on Wednesday concerning her husband's job, Felicia Richardson, a paralegal with a Downtown firm, wrote: “He worked for Crafton Heights Townhomes from May 2009 to June 2010.” She listed his responsibilities as “community resident counselor/advisor.”

As liaison between management and residents, she said, Richardson provided “information and counseling for individuals (youth and elderly) and families” and enforced “procedure and policies that will enhance, manage and protect the residents.”

Richardson, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native, said the couple and their three sons moved to Western Pennsylvania six years ago. He registered as a Democrat in July 2008, listing a Munhall address, county records show. In June 2009, he moved to Pittsburgh, according to voter-registration records, and moved to another city address in February 2010. In November 2011, he moved to Clairton, where he stayed until January 2012, records show.

His arrests here date to September 2008, when Munhall police Officer Leon Nyapas charged Richardson with terroristic threats, public drunkenness, harassment and two counts of disorderly conduct. He spent one day in the Allegheny County Jail before posting $100 cash bail.

The charges of terroristic threats, public drunkenness and one count of disorderly conduct were withdrawn. Munhall District Judge Thomas R. Torkowsky found Richardson not guilty on the summary harassment and disorderly conduct charges.

Attorney Heath Leff, Richardson's public defender for the Munhall case, did not return calls.

“Did I have an altercation in Munhall? Yes. No one is perfect,” Richardson said. “I am not justifying it and saying it was right, but I am liberated by talking about it.”

Richardson, a black man with dreadlocks and facial tattoos, said he was trying to create “cultural awareness” in a “white neighborhood” when someone used a racial slur and an “altercation” began.

Crafton police pulled him over in September 2010 for operating a vehicle without a valid inspection. Richardson pleaded guilty before Crafton District Judge Dennis Robert Joyce in October 2010 for a summary offense regarding the inspection.

In the past year, Richardson was found guilty in municipal court of careless driving, running a red light, harassment and disobeying a traffic cop.

Pittsburgh police filed the red-light charge on April 10; he was found guilty in July.

Pittsburgh Officer Jason M. Lloyd filed a harassment charge on April 28; District Judge Oscar Petite found Richardson guilty in September; court records contain no details about that charge. Richardson's wife paid his $344 fine in January, records show.

Pittsburgh police charged Richardson on June 23 with “disobedience to authorized persons directing traffic.” The Richardsons paid a $236 fine in Municipal Court, though records aren't clear for which offense.

Adam Brandolph and Salena Zito are Trib Total Media staff writers. Reach Brandolph at 412-391-0927 or abrandolph@tribweb.com. Reach Zito at szito@tribweb.com.

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