Camera returned, but photos wind up with lawyer in Pittsburgh
How much is Yarone Zober's camera and more than 1,000 personal photos worth to him• The answer falls somewhere between $20 and a criminal extortion investigation.
Zober, chief of staff to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, said his digital camera was either lost or stolen during a bicycle ride Downtown last month.
Police recovered the camera from Wesley Connor, 40, of Wilkinsburg, who said he found it on a sidewalk outside the federal courthouse.
But in a bizarre twist, more than 1,000 photos stored on the camera showing Zober vacationing and attending official events fell into the hands of Lawrence Fisher, a Downtown lawyer representing Connor who has publicly criticized Ravenstahl's administration.
Fisher represented ousted Urban Redevelopment Authority head Pat Ford, who called Ravenstahl's administration corrupt.
Zober got his camera back, through police intervention, but Fisher made copies of the photos and downloaded them to his laptop. He said he believes it is legal for him to keep them on his computer and distribute them to anyone who requests them.
"(Connor) called the office and said, 'Hey, I found your camera,' which I thought was great," Zober said. "And then the person asked me if there was money involved, and I said, 'I don't know. I just bought another camera.' I said, 'I can give you $20.' "
Zober said Connor accepted the offer and agreed to return the camera, but then didn't.
A day later, Zober said, Connor wrote him an e-mail explaining he looked at Zober's photos and was offended by some that he believed made a mockery of gang violence. In one photo, a female companion of Zober's is pictured holding up a gang sign that spells "blood" with her fingers.
Connor wrote he was "insulted" by Zober's offer of $20 and demanded an apology. Connor said he would give the photos to the news media and the NAACP to "let them see how you think gangs are so hilarious and let them deal with the implications of your actions."
Zober called police, who persuaded Connor to turn over the camera through Fisher. The lawyer said he told Connor the law required him to return the camera.
Zober declined to discuss the photos and said he didn't think his vacation photos were newsworthy.
Public Safety Director Michael Huss accused Connor of running a "blackmail" scheme.
"The guy was just trying to get money out of Yarone, and Yarone was trying to get his camera back," Huss said.
Connor denied he was looking for money. He said he only wants an apology from Zober. Connor, who was charged in Maryland with theft in the past, said his cousin was killed by gang violence in 1995 in Pittsburgh.
Huss said Zober did not press charges, in part, because he's uncertain whether the camera was lost or stolen.