Former mayoral candidate, wife and 2 sons charged in false 911 reports
April 4, 2014 11:33 PM
A.J. Richardson answers a question during a mayoral debate in 2013.
By Paula Reed Ward / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A former Pittsburgh mayoral candidate and his wife were charged today with allegedly making more than 100 unnecessary phone calls to Allegheny County’s 911 dispatch center since March 8.
Abdula Richardson, 37, and Felecia Richardson, 43, of Sheraden were arrested and charged with multiple counts of criminal conspiracy and making false reports.
According to the affidavit of probable cause, two of their three juvenile sons also will be charged.
Mike Manko, a spokesman with the district attorney’s office called it “one of the most egregious abuses of the 911 system in recent memory.”
“By repeatedly engaging in the abuse of the 911 system, these two defendants potentially compromised the safety of other residents by needlessly occupying the time of police officers who were subsequently not available to respond to legitimate emergencies.”
According to 911 dispatch tapes, the calls often include a female-sounding voice or a child’s voice in distress and asking for help.
The affidavit noted that in some calls a woman claims she is being beaten by her husband, and that he has a gun. In others, the caller claims someone is in the house with a submachine gun.
There was at least one day where six calls were made from the house.
But each time officers arrived at the Bergman Street home, according to police reports, they were greeted by Mr. Richardson and his family, including wife and three children, who reported that all is well. Officers also report that the family’s bull mastiff was often on the porch with them and that attempts were made to intimidate the officers.
In one incident on March 30, Detective Dawn Mercurio wrote in her report that while investigators were searching the home, one of the Richardson children made the shape of a gun with his finger, pointed it at her and said “bang.”
“[The boy] was smiling while pretending to shoot at me with his fingers,” the report said.
Mr. Richardson has told officers that the calls are not originating from his home and that he has asked his land-line phone carrier, Verizon, to investigate, and that the company has no proof of the calls either.
However, officers have verified Mr. Richardson’s home phone number by having the dispatch center call the number back while they are on scene. They have heard it ring inside. In addition, the reports note that officers seized the land-line phone, and afterward, calls were made using cell phones registered to the family.
Often, the reports note, the children filmed the interaction with police on their cell phones.
Most of the calls showed a pattern of being made on evenings and weekends. One exception to that, the affidavit noted, was March 25, when one of the boys was home from school suspended.
Officers were able to identify the boys in several of the calls and said in the affidavit they will be charged with making false reports, conspiracy, criminal mischief and conspiracy to abuse 911. The boys, ages 12 and 15, are being held at Shuman Juvenile Detention Center.
Mr. Richardson is additionally charged with retaliation and disorderly conduct. He and his wife were being held at the Allegheny County Jail Friday night.
Earlier Friday, the county district attorney’s office filed a motion seeking to prohibit Mr. Richardson from claiming police misconduct at his upcoming trial. Mr. Richardson faces a nonjury trial May 12 before Common Pleas Judge Anthony M. Mariani for aggravated assault, terroristic threats and burglary stemming from a dispute with a neighbor last year.
According to the affidavit, when officers arrived at the Richardson home on March 23, Mr. Richardson reiterated that no one had called the police and that it was “police harassment.” In addition, he said, “This is why I am running for state representative of this area and I’m running for mayor again in 2017.”
The affidavit notes the city has spent more than $11,000 to investigate the calls.
According to the commonwealth’s motion, Mr. Richardson has said he wants to show that the incidents for which he is charged “were a result of the Pittsburgh police setting him up.”
“The commonwealth denies that any impropriety exists in either the commencement or the conduct of these instant prosecutions,” the motion said.
Frank Walker, who represents Mr. Richardson, said Friday he had not yet seen the motion and had no comment.
Paula Reed Ward: email@example.com and 412-263-2620. First Published April 4, 2014 12:53 PM