Spokesman caught in 'misunderstanding'

Worker for mayor's campaign had run-in with police in Florida

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Authorities in Palm Beach County, Fla., have issued an arrest warrant for Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's campaign spokesman, who called the incident a misunderstanding.

West Palm Beach police arrested Robert Matthew Harringer, 24, a Florida native, Nov. 30 and charged him with resisting or obstructing an officer without violence, according to Palm Beach County court records. The warrant was issued after he failed to appear in court Jan. 22.

Mr. Harringer said Wednesday that there is no longer a warrant for his arrest and that it was a misunderstanding.

"I was not given a notice of arraignment, nor my lawyer, and it's been taken care and there's no longer a warrant," he said.

But according to a Palm Beach County Constitutional Clerk & Comptroller spokeswoman, the records just before 5 p.m. still showed an open warrant. Mr. Harringer waived his arraignment and is pleading not guilty, the spokeswoman said.

Mr. Ravenstahl said Mr. Harringer remains on his campaign staff.

"It was him practicing his First Amendment rights," the mayor said of the situation.

According to a West Palm Beach affidavit of probable cause, Mr. Harringer interfered as police tried to talk to a woman who was the apparent victim of a battery.

Police saw what happened and took a male suspect into custody, according to the affidavit.

While police still had the woman sequestered, Mr. Harringer came up, and it "appeared that Harringer was consoling her but was preventing her from answering our questions," according to the affidavit.

The officer first asked Mr. Harringer to "step back because he was interfering with my investigation" and then told him to step away from the crime scene.

Mr. Harringer then took out his iPhone to record part of the encounter, according to the affidavit.

The officer wrote in the affidavit that he warned Mr. Harringer more than once that he would be arrested for obstruction if he didn't stop. He wrote that he advised Mr. Harringer "no less than 8 times" to leave the scene.

In his account, Mr. Harringer said he came out onto the sidewalk and saw a man restrained in handcuffs, lying on the ground. He said he watched officers "physically mistreat" the man.

"What I witnessed was something I thought was an injustice, and I safely attempted to ask the officers for their badge numbers, and upon attempting to record it, was taken into custody," he said.

Mr. Harringer said he did not know the man or the woman police were trying to interview.

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Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1944 or on Twitter @borntolede.


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