Zappala to consider special prosecutor in Michael Rosfeld case
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said he’s giving “careful consideration” to a black attorney’s offer to serve as special prosecutor in the case of an East Pittsburgh police officer charged with homicide in the fatal shooting of Antwon Rose.
Pittsburgh attorney Milton Raiford, 62, said he contacted Zappala about 10 days ago because he felt the county needed someone with experience in the black community to prosecute Officer Michael Rosfeld.
“I have a genuine empathy and a concern that the voice of our community is heard,” Raiford said. “The citizens of Pennsylvania, all of them, are entitled to a quick, vociferous, aggressive prosecution of this police officer. What I bring to it is heart, that’s what I bring to the table.”
Zappala responded in a statement on Friday.
“Milt is someone I like and respect,” Zappala said. “His practice has involved some of the most serious crimes. His offer will be given thoughtful consideration.”
The shooting of an unarmed Rose, 17, in the back as he ran from a traffic stop in East Pittsburgh on June 19 generated national media attention and mass protests in Pittsburgh and surrounding communities. Community activists and the Rose family protested the DA’s handling of the case and called on Zappala to turn the prosecution over to the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office.
Raiford said he would suspend his practice and focus exclusively on the prosecution, adding that the DA’s office lacks diversity. Zappala spokesman Mike Manko said the office has five black prosecutors. The DA’s has 115 attorneys.
Raiford, who grew up in Homewood, said he’s been practicing law since 1987. He noted his career was sidetracked in 1997 when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Office of Disciplinary Counsel disbarred him after he was convicted of fraud and obstructing justice for having a client misrepresent herself in a narcotics case. Raiford was sentenced to probation.
The Supreme Court reinstated him as an attorney in 2010.
He said he’s defended numerous clients in criminal cases before and since then.
“In our society we look for a way to marginalize black lives,” Raiford said. “That’s why I want to try this case, because I don’t want them to spin what happened 13 minutes earlier into making it seem like this police officer in some way was influenced in his mind to shoot a boy in the back.”
Rose was riding in a car involved in a drive-by shooting 13 minutes before Rosfeld stopped the vehicle. Zaijuan Hester, 17, who was riding in the back seat of the vehicle was charged with attempted homicide and aggravated assault in the earlier North Braddock shooting.
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @bobbauder.