Pittsburgh politicians call for impeachment or resignation of DA Stephen Zappala | News | Pittsburgh

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Wed, June 2 TribLive reported on an email Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala sent to his deputy prosecutors barring them from offering plea deals to clients of a famous black lawyer who five days earlier had criticized the office of Zappala for being “systematically racist”.

Almost immediately after the story broke, criticism of Zappala spread across social media, including two politicians in the Pittsburgh area who called for Zappala’s resignation or impeachment.

On May 13, attorney Milton Raiford commented in the courtroom of Allegheny County Judge Anthony Mariani and shared his frustrations with what Raiford described as systemic racism in County D ‘Allegheny and the Pittsburgh area. During a lengthy speech where he asked to be on the court record, Raiford said it was “very disheartening that in this county we have no comment from the district attorney’s office, no comment from the district attorney. our administrative judge in that division, no comment from the Supreme Court ”on the police shootings and the coronavirus pandemic. According to TribLive, Raiford added that he believes his clients of color are given worse advocacy offers because of their race.

“Your honor, I think the prosecutor’s office is systematically racist,” Raiford said during his speech. “And I think the criminal justice system is systematically racist.”

Five days later, on May 18, Zappala emailed his deputy prosecutors calling Raiford’s conduct “unprofessional” and a “convoluted critical rant.” Zappala’s email then added that “no plea offers should be made” regarding Raiford and its clients and that “the withdrawal of any charge must be approved by the front office”.

The email and Zappala’s actions have led at least six Pittsburgh-area politicians to ask Zappala to resign or be removed from office. A request to Zappala’s office has not been returned at press time.

State Representative Emily Kinkead (D-North Side) tweeted on June 2 that Zappala “must resign or be removed from office immediately.”

“[Zappala] just admitted that his office dispenses justice differently depending on who is involved in the case and not the facts of the case, ”Kinkead tweeted. “Zappala broke his oath. # ResignationZappala ”

State Representative Summer Lee (D-Swissvale) also called for Zappala’s impeachment, Tweeter “Stephen Zappala must be removed immediately. Pass it on. Jerry Dickinson (D-Swissvale), congressional candidate and law professor at the University of Pittsburgh, joined calls for Zappala’s resignation, adding that his actions likely violated the First Amendment and “are contrary to the ethical, illegal and punishable “.

Allegheny County Councilor Anita Prizio (D-O’Hara) said Zappala must step down. “It is shocking and unacceptable,” Prizio said in a statement. “Justice must be determined on the basis of the facts of a case, not on whether the lawyer is respectful enough to the prosecutor. ”

In a press release sent to Pittsburgh City Paper, State Representative Jessica Benham (D-South Side) called for Zappala’s resignation over the TribLive story.

“This is unacceptable behavior, consistent with the history of this district attorney’s office failing to address systemic racism in our criminal justice system,” Benham said. “DA Zappala should resign. ”

Zappala’s decades-long tenure was marked by criticism of racial disparities in prosecution. Between 2016 and 2017, Zappala’s office accused black teens as adults 20 times more often than it accused white teens as adults in Allegheny County. In 2018, when asked about these glaring racial disparities, Zappala said, “I think that’s the process we have in place, to put the burden on the prosecution. You talk about serious things.

He also recently supported the filing of charges against more than a dozen Black Lives Matter protesters who were involved in a protest where Pittsburgh police dumped tear gas, sponge cartridges and other lesser weapons. murderous attacks on the demonstrators.

Allegheny County General Councilor Bethany Hallam (D-North Side) also calls for Zappala’s resignation and said if he does not do so she will pressure the county council to consider his actions when allocating the county budget to his office.

“The fact that Zappala issued this edict – which is both unimaginably petty, but extremely disturbing – clearly demonstrates to us that he is not fit to run this office,” Hallam said in a statement to City paper. “If he does not voluntarily resign from his post, I promise that I will ensure that my fellow council members take his actions into consideration in our upcoming discussions on the county budget.”

Removing an attorney in Pennsylvania is no easy task. Because of State Law, the Pennsylvania state legislature and governor must act after the state Supreme Court ruled that a district attorney violated professional conduct rules. To remove a prosecutor would eventually require a two-thirds vote for the conviction of the state Senate and approval of the governor.

A bill in the State Senate has been introduced to change this rule, to make it a district attorney whose lawyer’s license has been withdrawn would amount to dismissal. The Bradford County District Attorney recently had his lawyer’s license suspended by the State Supreme Court after being charged with sexually assaulting a woman, but the ruling should not be interpreted as removing him from his elected office .


Editor’s Note: This article was updated at 12:15 p.m. on June 3 to include more statements from politicians in the Pittsburgh area.

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