A man charged with selling drugs to an undercover Pittsburgh police officer in the Allegheny County public defender's office said the County Office Building was "the safest place to do these deals."
"Nobody would ever suspect anything," police reported Jason Rutherford said.
Mr. Rutherford, 35, of Brighton Heights, was arrested Friday on the charges stemming from the sale of prescription drugs Jan. 25. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for today.
According to the criminal complaint filed in the case, two officers were working undercover Downtown the morning of Jan. 25 after receiving complaints of open-air drug sales.
The officers were at the McDonald's on Wood Street about 9:15 a.m. when they saw two people they suspected to be drug users, and they indicated they were looking for drugs.
According to the criminal complaint, one of the people, Mr. Rutherford, asked what they were looking for and said he knew a guy selling "footballs," a nickname for alprazolam, a generic drug used to treat anxiety.
Mr. Rutherford told the undercover officer to walk with him, and they went to the County Office Building on Forbes Avenue and then to the fourth floor. The officer wrote in the complaint that Mr. Rutherford told him to sit in the waiting area of the Allegheny County public defender's office.
The suspect then met with Matthew Stewart, 21, of Reserve in the hallway. Mr. Stewart was the same man who had been with Mr. Rutherford at McDonald's.
The officer gave Mr. Rutherford $20, and Mr. Rutherford returned with five greenish-colored alprazolam pills wrapped in a napkin.
Both men are charged with conspiracy, possession with intent to deliver and possession of a controlled substance. Mr. Stewart is scheduled for a preliminary hearing April 19.
County Manager William McKain issued a written statement in which he noted that all county buildings have security guards on duty and cameras in place, including at the public defender's office.
"We are not aware of any prior issues related to drug sales in the building," Mr. McKain said.
He continued by saying that the county process is to continually review security procedures.
Paula Reed Ward: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2620.