Authorities on Monday charged a North Side cigar shop owner with filing an unfounded protection-from-abuse order against a Pittsburgh police commander who he claimed threatened to hurt him and his business when he broke off what he described as their romantic relationship.
Detectives from the Allegheny County district attorney's office concluded that Andrew M. Lee, 54, of Sheraden, lied about the nature of his relationship with Cmdr. RaShall Brackney, 50, when he sought the protection order on May 8, two days before she was due to testify against him at a zoning hearing dealing with a litany of problems at his business, Executive Cigar LLC on Suismon Street.
Detectives charged Mr. Lee via summons with unsworn falsification to authorities, obstructing the administration of law, intimidation of witnesses and stalking, all misdemeanors. He said he had not seen the criminal complaint, but was "confident things will work out when the truth comes out." ... As time plays out, all things will be revealed in the light."
Mr. Lee wrote in the PFA petition that he was in fear for his life because Cmdr. Brackney, who oversees the Zone 1 station on the North Side, was in a "fit of rage" when "she said she would destroy me by any means" and "she would do whatever it takes to get me." He checked a box marked "my current or former sexual or intimate partner" to describe his relationship with the commander, who repeatedly denied they had ever dated or had physical contact beyond a professional handshake. Cmdr. Brackney told district attorney's detectives who interviewed her, saying she was "shocked" to learn of Mr. Lee's protection order because he had been contacting her for favors and legal help concerning his problematic business, according to a criminal complaint.
A PFA petition is an unproven allegation filed in civil court. Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Kelly E. Bigley dismissed the order on May 17, saying his efforts to obtain it claims were "an absolute abuse of the system for no other reason [than] to gain advantage in a litigious situation."
"To be quite honest with you, there is not one scintilla of evidence that there is a relationship established under the Protection From Abuse Act," Judge Bigley told Mr. Lee at the PFA hearing. "You acknowledged at best a flirtation that never established any relationship."
The commander's supporters, including many North Side residents, believed Mr. Lee's efforts were a gambit to derail her testimony at a zoning hearing about his efforts to legally operate an after-hours club in addition to the cigar shop. She did not testify, but police and residents who did noted loud music, illegal parking, naked loiterers and violence on more than one occasion.
The zoning board last month denied his request to operate a club on the second floor. Mr. Lee said his business recently reopened and has been operating smoothly from noon to midnight.
"What is rare with this case is, here you have someone who has fabricated a relationship to file a PFA," district attorney spokesman Mike Manko said.
Cmdr. Brackney did not respond to requests for comment. Warner Macklin III, who has been acting as her spokesman since Mr. Lee filed the PFA, said only that the district attorney's office "weighed the evidence and thought these charges were warranted."
Sadie Gurman: email@example.com or 412-263-1878.