Trial ordered for former Pittsburgh mayoral candidate, wife over false 911 calls
April 23, 2014 7:20 PM
By Liz Navratil / Post-Gazette
Sometimes a voice called for help claiming there had been a beating. Other times an Allegheny County 911 call-taker could only hear a voice breathing deeply.
But each of the more than 100 times Pittsburgh police arrived at the Sheraden home of former mayoral candidate Abdula “A.J.” Richardson, his wife Felecia Richardson and their three sons, things unfolded in almost the same manner, police said.
“Call comes in, we go there, nothing’s going on,” Detective Jim Glick testified Wednesday at a preliminary hearing for the couple. When officers arrived, he said, they often found the family outside, many with cameras or cell phones in their hands recording police as they came and went.
District Judge James Hanley Jr. ordered Mr. Richardson, 37, and Mrs. Richardson, 43, to stand trial on charges of conspiracy and making false reports to law enforcement in connection with the 911 calls. Mr. Richardson, who awaits a May trial on charges stemming from a dispute with a neighbor last year, also faces charges of disorderly conduct and retaliation.
Detective Glick testified Wednesday that a review of officers’ daily logs shows the city paid more than $10,000 to send police to the Richardson house between March 3 and April 3. More than $1,500 of that was spent on March 29, when the city sent 21 officers to the house to respond to multiple calls reporting trouble at the Richardson family’s Bergman Street house, the detective said.
A prosecutor asked police to play audio and video clips from a handful of calls to that address. In one case, someone claiming to be Mrs. Richardson reported a beating. In another, the call-taker could hear only someone breathing loudly.
“Do you need help, or you want to keep playing?” the call-taker asked. “Do you need help or do you want to keep breathing on the phone?”
Defense attorney Frank Walker asked Detective Glick if they had definitively identified the voices on the calls as those of Mr. and Mr. Richardson. Detective Glick said they had not but said they did confirm that one of the voices was that of the couple’s son.
Mr. Walker said after the hearing that distinction will be important moving forward and noted that in many cases the person making the calls whispered, as if trying to hide the details of their calls from others who might be in close proximity.
Assistant district attorney Melissa Byrnes pointed out throughout the hearing that when police arrived, the entire family, including both Mr. and Mrs. Richardson, was often outside the house, ready to film officers who responded.