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Pittsburgh DA fends off primary challenge, 1st in 20 years

May 22, 2019

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh’s longtime top prosecutor has fended off a challenge in the Democratic primary, his first in 20 years.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala on Tuesday defeated a former public defender who criticized his handling of the case of a white police officer charged in the fatal shooting of a black teenager.

Political newcomer Turahn Jenkins announced his candidacy just weeks after Antwon Rose II was fatally shot in the back by East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld, leading to protests.

Jenkins is the county’s former chief deputy public defender and a former prosecutor.

He criticized Zappala’s office for not calling an expert witness on the use of force during Rosfeld’s trial. He also said prosecutors should have objected to letting Rosfeld remain free on bail before trial. Rosfeld was acquitted.

Zappala defended his office’s handling of the Rosfeld case. He said that “political rhetoric notwithstanding, I think we’re the best office in Pennsylvania,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

He faces no Republican challenger in November.

In a statement issued late Tuesday, Zappala praised his opponent for a “valiant effort to advance the conversation on criminal justice.”

He said he understands public expectations are changing.

“I am looking forward to getting back to work advancing the agenda that they have insisted upon: further reduction of cash bail, more pathways toward diversion and less incarceration, advocating reform of laws determining justifiable use of force and categorizing violent acts against the LGBTQ community as hate crimes,” he said.

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