Judge clears white officers in black motorist’s death
PITTSBURGH (AP) _ A judge ruled out a second trial for two white police officers accused in the death of a black motorist, saying prosecutors had unfairly singled them out.
Allegheny County Judge David Cashman dismissed involuntary manslaughter charges against Brentwood police Lt. Milton Mulholland, now a janitor, and Officer Michael Albert from Baldwin, who were among five officers at the scene of Jonny Gammage’s death.
``When one acknowledges the fact ... that these individuals were the only ones prosecuted, it becomes clear that a political purpose was attempting to be served rather than the interest of justice,″ Cashman said.
He also removed the case from the office of District Attorney Robert Colville and gave it to Attorney General Mike Fisher for any further proceedings.
Colville said he will appeal all the decisions, saying Cashman was wrong to say prosecutors bowed to political pressure by charging the officers.
``Life is under political pressure,″ Colville said. ``We charge everybody in that political pressure.″
The officers fought with Gammage, 31, of Syracuse, N.Y., in Pittsburgh on Oct. 12, 1995, after police stopped him in a luxury car that belonged to his cousin, Ray Seals, a defensive lineman now playing for the the Carolina Panthers.
A fight began when one officer knocked a cellular telephone and an address book out of Gammage’s hand. He said later he thought the phone was a weapon. Officers pinned Gammage to the pavement and he suffocated from pressure on his neck and back.
Mulholland and Albert’s trial last fall ended in a mistrial when Coroner Cyril Wecht, under questioning by the defense, said Albert should explain what he did that night. A defendant is not required to testify at a trial.
A third officer was acquitted in a separate trial and two others were not charged.
The officers’ lawyers denied Gammage was pulled over only because he was a black man driving an expensive car late at night in a white suburb. They said the officers couldn’t see his face through the tinted windows.
``We’ve said from the very beginning that this was selective prosecution, and when the trial blew up with Dr. Wecht on the stand, we took the position that we shouldn’t be tried again,″ said Mulholland’s lawyer, Patrick Thomassey.
Cashman’s ruling ``proves beyond a doubt that the federal government has got to step in and prosecute all of the police who were responsible for killing Jonny Gammage,″ said Dorothy Urquhart, a spokeswoman for United Concerned Citizens at Work, which has supported prosecution of the officers.