Chelsa Wagner acquitted of disturbing peace, jury hung on felony charge
A jury Wednesday found Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner not guilty of disturbing the peace during a confrontation with Detroit police but could not reach a verdict on a more serious charge of resisting and obstructing officers.
Wagner was accused of interfering with Detroit police March 6 as they prepared to remove her husband, Khari Mosley, from the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel after staff said he was being unruly. The couple were in Detroit for a concert.
Jury: Not guilty on disturbing the peace. One juror said he doesn't think they can reach a verdict; the judge just excused the jury.
— George Hunter (@GeorgeHunter_DN) November 20, 2019
A mistrial was declared on the felony charge after a hung jury was declared. A meeting to determine what happens next is scheduled for Dec. 20 in Wayne County Court.
Jurors deliberated about six hours over two days before reaching the verdict on the disturbing the peace charge but could not reach a consensus on the obstruction charge. The jury consisted of nine women and three men.
Juror Erika Eloff of Northville said she didn’t think Wagner was guilty on either of the charges, although she said she was in the minority regarding the obstruction count.
“I could not with a clear conscience say she was guilty, because there were too many missing pieces to this,” Eloff said. “But many of the other jurors didn’t feel that way. They felt it was black-and-white, and that the video clearly showed she was guilty.
“I’d say it was about 9-3 for guilty.”
“Reasonable minds can disagree, but we accept the verdict of the jury regarding their not guilty verdict on the misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct,” Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a statement. “I will not comment further at this time, because the felony charge of resisting and obstructing the police is pending. We will be in court for the pretrial conference.”
After the verdict was announced, Wagner said she felt vindicated and expressed hope Worthy wouldn’t try her again on the felony count.
“How much tax money has already been spent on this?” Wagner said. “As the controller who takes care of the taxes in my county, it was outrageous to spend tax dollars on the first trial, and it’ll be even worse if we have to go through this again.”
During three days of testimony, Wagner’s attorneys, Charles Longstreet and Kevin Mincey, argued she was the victim of overzealous police who barged into her hotel room. They say her civil rights were violated when they slammed her to the ground.
Assistant Wayne County prosecutor Erika Tursar insisted Wagner obstructed police officers and acted like an entitled politician who “doesn’t think the rules apply to her.” Tursar argued that Wagner “pulled the ‘do-you-know-who-I-am?’ card” when she told the police she was the highest-ranking elected official in her county.
Wagner testified Tuesday after prosecutors called six witnesses — four hotel employees and two Detroit police officers — during three days of testimony.
On the night of the incident, hotel staff called 911 to report Mosley was being disruptive. When officers arrived, they put Mosley into a squad car before going to Wagner’s room to verify Mosley’s claim that he was a guest, despite his name not being on the hotel registry.
Wagner testified she felt “powerless” and “terrified” when Detroit police Officers Edmond Witcher and Jonathan Glowacki entered her hotel room while she was in bed.
The officers’ body camera video showed the door to Room 1002 was ajar. They announced their presence before entering the room.
After the 42-year-old Wagner giggled repeatedly and gave her age as 21, one of the officers is heard on the video saying, “She’s wasted.”
Wagner testified Tuesday she wasn’t drunk.
“I was asleep,” she said, adding she didn’t recall talking to the officers when they first entered her room.
During cross-examination, Tursar asked Wagner how, if she was asleep, was she able to answer the officers’ questions about whether her husband was a hotel guest.
“I remember dreams,” Wagner said.
Tursar told her: “You’re never going to admit to these people that you were drunk.”
“I was not drunk,” Wagner said.
Tursar asked Wagner why she left her hotel door open. “You’ve never been to Detroit? You’re trying to tell me you’d intentionally leave your door open … when just anybody could walk in?”
“I felt safe, yes,” Wagner said.