Robbery charge dropped against defendant with alibi

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The Allegheny County district attorney's office Friday withdrew charges against a Lincoln-Lemington man who claimed Pittsburgh police wrongfully arrested him for a Homewood robbery.

DeAndre Brown, 26, who works as a security guard at the Carnegie Library branch in Homewood, told police he could not have committed the crime because he was at a training session at the Oakland branch at the time of the robbery. Dana's Bakery on North Homewood Avenue was robbed shortly before 3 p.m. Sept. 10.

Mr. Brown had a surveillance video showing him at the training session, a sign-in sheet and an alibi witness to support his claim, said his attorney, Patrick Nightingale.

The only evidence tying Mr. Brown to the robbery, the lawyer continued, was a mistaken witness identification.

At Mr. Brown's preliminary hearing, Mr. Nightingale said the investigating officer refused to take the alibi's name or phone number.

"I'm extremely disappointed the police officer investigating this matter completely ignored the alibi witness," Mr. Nightingale said.

But Pittsburgh police Lt. Daniel Herrmann said Mr. Brown didn't tell anyone about his alibi when he was first taken into custody.

"Normally, you're so emphatic and hyped up. You say, 'no, no, I was here, here and here,' " Lt. Herrmann said.

It was only at the preliminary hearing on Sept. 24 -- eight days after the arrest -- that the prosecution learned of a possible alibi. The DA at that point told Mr. Nightingale the preliminary hearing was not the proper place to discuss that, Lt. Herrmann said.

"The detective only went by the suggestion of the district attorney," the lieutenant said. "None of that stuff was ever presented until the day of the preliminary hearing."

Defense attorney Dan Muessig said Lt. Herrmann was wrong.

"[Mr. Brown] was maintaining his innocence from the second they snatched him out of his truck," Mr. Muessig said. "He told them he was at work. They never listened to him or acknowledged that he could be telling the truth. They instead tried to get him to confess to the robbery that he didn't do as opposed to vetting his story."

It was only after a member of the DA's office reviewed the information that the charges were withdrawn.

Mike Manko, a spokesman for the DA's office, said that even after an arrest, investigators and prosecutors continue to gather information on a case. Although the witness identified Mr. Brown in a lineup before the preliminary hearing and again on the stand at the hearing, additional information provided by the defense led the DA's office to withdraw the charges, Mr. Manko said.

Mr. Brown spent about a month in jail before his bond was reduced on Oct. 17, allowing him to be released to electronic monitoring.

Paula Reed Ward: pward@post-gazette.com.


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