Pittsburgh mayoral candidate A.J. Richardson says he plans to plead guilty to DUI
April 4, 2013 6:20 AM
Pittsburgh mayoral candidate A.J. Richardson, during a March 17 debate.
Bob Donaldson / Post-Gazette
Democratic candidate for mayor of Pittsburgh A.J. Richardson greets reporters following his arraignment on DUI charges today.
By Liz Navratil and Alex Zimmerman Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A.J. Richardson said he believes God supports his run for mayor and that his arrest early Wednesday morning on a DUI charge was part of a conspiracy to discredit him -- but he plans to plead guilty.
Mr. Richardson, 36, of Sheraden, gave an elaborate story about his arrest in the West End that changed throughout the day.
Officers from the city's Zone 6 station in the West End said they found him slumped over the wheel of a green minivan sitting in the middle of Steuben Street.
Richardson claims DUI arrest is 'strategic attack'
Pittsburgh mayoral candidate A.J. Richardson said this afternoon the DUI charge filed against him this morning was part of a conspiracy to end his campaign. (Video by Bob Donaldson; 4/3/2013)
Police said Mr. Richardson failed several roadside sobriety tests, referenced his run for mayor, and told officers who arrested him that they "should have some back bone and be a voice for the black people," according to a criminal complaint.
As he was preparing to the leave the Pittsburgh Municipal Courts Building following his arraignment Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Richardson said he was not asleep behind the wheel and he thinks that someone is watching him and tapping his phone.
"It's a weak, feeble attempt to discredit me," Mr. Richardson said.
Asked what actually happened, he paused for several seconds, teared up and said, "They were looking for something. I was not intoxicated. That's all I'll say."
About four hours later, before addressing a crowd gathered at the University of Pittsburgh for a mayoral debate, Mr. Richardson told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "I had some drinks, a few drinks. I'm not going to get into the semantics of sobriety levels."
He said he plans to plead guilty because, "I think it's the honorable thing to do," but that shouldn't disqualify him from becoming mayor because, "It shows that he's human."
When Zone 6 Officers John Suzensky and Micah Anthony arrived at Steuben Street and the West End Circle at about 3 a.m., they found a man slumped inside a damaged minivan, according to the complaint.
Officer Anthony blew his horn several times, but the man inside the minivan did not respond, police said.
Officer Suzensky began yelling and tapping on the glass, trying to wake the man.
When the man, whom police later identified as Mr. Richardson, woke up, he was groggy, smelled of alcohol and struggled to pull out his driver's license, Officer Suzensky wrote.
He wrote that Mr. Richardson failed several sobriety tests and nearly fell over during two of them.
Officer Suzensky wrote that he and Officer Anthony asked for the car to be towed and noticed then that there appeared to be some damage to the front tire and rim, as if someone had struck something. Mr. Richardson said Wednesday afternoon that he had not been in an accident and did not further the explain the damage.
Shortly after the officers called for a tow, police transported Mr. Richardson to the special deployment division, where he refused to take a blood-alcohol test.
While he was there, Mr. Richardson "became verbally hostile, stating that he was going to be mayor repeatedly, and that he knew his rights and demanded to be released," Officer Suzensky wrote in the complaint. "When he was not, he made statements such as ... 'let me talk to someone who's in charge because y'all brothers are subservient to the white man.' He constantly stated ... 'you should have some back bone and be a voice for the black people.'"
All three officers involved in his arrest are black.
Zone 6 Commander Scott Schubert said Mr. Richardson's comments troubled Officer Suzensky.
"We're out here to be independent and to do our jobs and keep the community safe," the commander said. "You look at impaired driving, it affects everybody on the roadway. The fact that he was trying to use racism and comments like that were disingenuous to the officers."
Mr. Richardson, after he was released on his own recognizance, said officers mischaracterized his statements in the complaint.
In this case, Mr. Richardson faces one count of failing to have proper registration and one count of driving under the influence.
Commander Schubert said officers were permitted to arrest Mr. Richardson on the DUI charge even though the car was not moving when police arrived.
The commander said Mr. Richardson's presence in the driver's seat of the running car meant that he still had "physical control of that vehicle which means that he could leave at any time."
Wednesday morning's arrest was not the first for Mr. Richardson. Court records show that he pleaded guilty in Magisterial District Court to a summary harassment charge filed by the Pittsburgh police department in April 2012.
Commander Schubert said Mr. Richardson's arrest on Wednesday morning was like many others the zone has handled.
"We attempt to be impartial to anyone, regardless of who they are. We don't work in the form of politics or anything like that," the commander said. "To be honest with you, to us, this is just another arrest."
Later Wednesday night, Mr. Richardson apologized for his actions and said, "I shouldn't have been drinking ... it was senseless and reckless, it's not who I am."