Man arrested, cleared in bakery robbery files suit

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A man arrested -- and then cleared -- in connection with a Homewood bakery robbery filed a suit in federal court Thursday claiming that the officers who arrested him relied on a faulty eyewitness identification and then repeatedly ignored his alibi.

DeAndre Brown, 27, of Lincoln-Lemington sued, claiming malicious prosecution, false arrest, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He named in the suit the City of Pittsburgh, robbery Detective Nicholas Bobbs, Zone 5 Officer Frank Welling and their unspecified supervisors.

Pittsburgh police responded to a report of a robbery at Dana's Bakery on North Homewood Avenue Sept. 10. The next day, Mr. Brown went to the bakery and a worker there took down his license plate number and called police, saying he thought the robber had returned. The worker then picked Mr. Brown out of a photo array.

Detective Bobbs obtained a warrant for Mr. Brown, and Officer Welling was among those who arrested him Sept. 16, as he was preparing to go to his cousin's funeral.

Mr. Brown's attorneys, Joel Sansone and Massimo Terzigni, wrote in a complaint that Mr. Brown told police at the time of his arrest and during his subsequent interview with detectives that he was at a work-related meeting during the time of the robbery. They wrote that he reiterated his alibi before, during and after a preliminary hearing Sept. 24 and that his statements were "ignored by the defendants."

The pair wrote that officials attempted to offer Mr. Brown a plea deal but "because [Mr. Brown] played no role in the robbery whatsoever, he refused to enter into a plea agreement for crimes he did not commit."

They also wrote that Mr. Brown believes that after some time passed the man who identified him in the photo array informed police "that he was unsure if Plaintiff was the perpetrator of the crime."

Mr. Brown remained in the Allegheny County Jail until Oct. 22, when he was released on electronic home monitoring, for which he paid a deposit and a daily fee. His criminal defense attorneys presented the Allegheny County district attorney's office with surveillance footage from the Carnegie Library branch in Oakland, where Mr. Brown was attending a meeting at the time of the robbery, and sign-in sheets for the meeting.

The DA's office withdrew the charge Nov. 1, and the ankle monitor was removed Nov. 4, according to the complaint.

Mr. Brown's attorneys wrote that he has experienced sleeplessness, depression and irritability since his arrest and lost his job with the Carnegie Library's Homewood branch, where he worked as a security guard. They wrote that Mr. Brown missed his cousin's funeral and lost time with his four children.

Mr. Brown seeks compensatory and punitive damages and a jury trial.

A spokeswoman for the Pittsburgh police declined to comment, saying the bureau does not comment on ongoing litigation. A spokesman for the city said officials had not yet had a chance to review the filing.


Liz Navratil: lnavratil@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil. First Published April 17, 2014 6:37 PM

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