Text messages’ meaning debated in sex assault trial of Pittsburgh restaurateur
The attorney for a former Pittsburgh restaurant owner charged with sexual assault had only one question after the jury watched surveillance footage Friday that prosecutors say shows the man slowly, but surely, following the alleged victim and her friends to their cars six blocks away.
He wanted to know if the women were eating pizza as they walked.
The footage was narrated by Pittsburgh police Detective Bryan Sellers, who was the lead investigator on the case. Sellers said it shows Adnan Pehlivan in his silver BMW driving and parking several times between Kopy’s bar on South 12th Street and South 18th Street.
Pehlivan, 47, is accused of stalking the woman and her friends as they walked from a bar to their home and then breaking in and sexually assaulting her in her bedroom. She told police she woke to find Pehlivan performing oral sex on her.
Pehlivan owned the now-closed Istanbul Sofra restaurant in Pittsburgh’s Regent Square.
The footage shows Pehlivan following the women as they walk. He drives past them, parks, lets the women walk by, pulls out and drives ahead. Pehlivan repeats continues to leapfrog the women as they make their way along East Carson Street. Once, he parks and turns off his headlights, according to the video.
Sellers pointed out that, upon zooming in on the video, one can make out Pehlivan and his white shirt and red tie.
Sellers testified that a search of Pehlivan’s Whipple Street home turned up a red tie matching the description of the one he wore the night of the alleged attack. On a shelf in his bathroom, detectives found a dirty white T-shirt with part of the collar ripped off.
The shirt matched the piece the alleged victim tore from Pehlivan during the struggle in her home.
“At no point do they look at him,” Sellers said of the women, noting that none showed any indication they were aware they were walking past his parked car or that he was driving past them.
At 18th Street, the women eventually pile in to the alleged victim’s roommate’s vehicle. Pehlivan starts his car and turns left from East Carson onto 18th, driving past the women in the car.
Defense attorney Lee Rothman asked only one question regarding the footage upon cross examining Sellers. He wanted to know whether the footage showed the women eating their pizza as they walked to their cars.
Earlier Friday, Rothman tried painting the alleged victim and her roommate as money-hungry, referencing a text message the roommate sent to the alleged victim indicating she’d sought out information on Pehlivan online and, “We’re going to get him for everything he’s got.”
The roommate, a registered nurse, agreed that she’d sent the message.
“Yes,” she said. “I was angry.”
Assistant District Attorney Edward Sheid, upon redirect questioning, asked the roommate to read the text message she sent immediately after writing they were “going to get him.”
“We’re getting him on rape and breaking and entering and emotional damage,” she read.
Rothman also pointed to an online GoFundMe fundraiser the women set up seeking money to help move from their Josephine Street home where the alleged attack happened.
“What used to be our safe haven is no longer a safe space for us and our little dysfunctional family,” the alleged victim’s roommate wrote on the fundraising page.
She testified they received just enough to cover moving expenses and the security deposit at a new apartment – about $1,700, she said.
She also testified that, while the alleged victim was still at the hospital, police on scene helped her secure two windows that appeared to have been tampered with.
The alleged victim testified earlier this week that she never told Pehlivan her address or the route to her home, and she said she never asked him to follow her or told him she wanted to hook up with him. Her roommate and another friend with her that night testified they, too, never gave out their address, and they never heard the woman converse with Pehlivan about sex or wanting to hook up.
Testimony will continue Monday morning in front of Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Manning.
Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter .