Grand jury hears deputy sheriff

26-year veteran Yee works for Manning; Feds won't comment

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A well-known deputy sheriff who works in the Allegheny County Courthouse was called before a federal grand jury yesterday.

Gim Yee, 56, of South Park, who was accompanied by his attorney, Mark Lancaster, said nothing as he exited the seventh-floor grand jury room in the federal courthouse just after 10 a.m.

Mr. Lancaster, who was not permitted in the grand jury room, would not comment when asked what his client was called to testify about or whether he was cooperating with federal officials.

Mr. Yee, hired as a sheriff's deputy in August 1980, works primarily in the courtroom of Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey A. Manning.

Following his appearance before the grand jury, Mr. Yee returned to the county courthouse about four blocks away and reported directly to Judge Manning's chambers. Before the lunch break he was back on duty in the homicide trial of Steven Slutzker before Judge Manning.

It was unclear whether other subpoenas have been served, or who has received them. Neither the U.S. attorney's office nor the FBI would comment about any pending investigations.

In the last few weeks, FBI agents visited the Grant Street Tavern, a bar near the county courthouse, asking questions about Judge Manning and his visits there with prominent defense attorney Patrick J. Thomassey.

An employee at the bar said that the men drink together occasionally, and that they buy rounds for each other, much like any friends would do.

Judge Manning and Mr. Thomassey, whose law office is in Monroeville, have been friends for more than four decades, having met as caddies at a golf club in Churchill. The two men travel together regularly, and Mr. Thomassey is known to receive many court-appointed cases in Judge Manning's courtroom

Mr. Thomassey would not comment.

Judge Manning left his third-floor chambers yesterday afternoon with his attorney, Gary Zimmerman, who would only say, "No one is answering any questions."

Earlier, staff members in the Allegheny County clerk of courts office confirmed that three FBI agents visited there in May or early June and asked for case files by specific case numbers.

"It's my belief it's connected to this," said Clerk of Courts George F. Matta II.

He said he paid no attention at the time to the request because the files are public records and can be viewed by anyone.

During that same time frame, according to sources in the sheriff's office, FBI agents sat in on some of the proceedings before Judge Manning.

The judge's name originally surfaced in a federal investigation in 2004 involving his close friend, Peters businessman Christopher Fekos.

In June, after a two-year investigation, Mr. Fekos was indicted on 10 counts of lying and providing false documentation to obtain bank loans, as well as bribing a bank employee to obtain nearly $2 million.

A co-defendant in the case, Lee Mazur Jr., son of Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Lee Mazur, was charged by criminal complaint in the matter this month. Court filings show that he retained a lawyer, William Manifesto, and is scheduled to plead guilty on Feb. 21.

In 2004, Judge Manning's attorney, Anthony Mariani, who is now also a judge, said his client got involved with Mr. Fekos and Lee Mazur Jr. as part of a restaurant deal in Florida.

Judge Manning, who began his legal career in the Allegheny County district attorney's office, later worked 12 years as a prosecutor for the U.S. attorney in Western Pennsylvania.

Appointed to the bench in June 1988 to fill a vacancy created when another judge moved to the state Commonwealth Court, Judge Manning ran for his first full 10-year term in 1989.


Paula Reed Ward can be reached at pward@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2620. Gabrielle Banks can be reached at gbanks@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1370.


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