Arrest warrant for Ravenstahl campaign spokesman issued in Florida

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Authorities in Palm Beach County, Fla., have issued an arrest warrant for Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's campaign spokesman, which he called a misunderstanding.

West Palm Beach police arrested Robert Matthew Harringer, 24, a Florida native, Nov. 30 and charged him with resisting or obstructing an officer without violence, according to Palm Beach County court records. The warrant was issued after he failed to appear in court Jan. 22.

Mr. Harringer said early Wednesday afternoon that there is no longer a warrant for his arrest and that it was a misunderstanding.

"I was not given a notice of arraignment, nor my lawyer, and it's been taken care and there's no longer a warrant," he said.

But according to a Palm Beach County Constitutional Clerk & Comptroller spokeswoman, the records as of 2 p.m. still show an open warrant.

They also show that Mr. Harringer's attorney, Robert Foley, requested another hearing for Friday.

Mr. Harringer waived his arraignment and is pleading not guilty, the spokeswoman said.

Mr. Ravenstahl said today it was his understanding that Mr. Harringer watched as a police officer kicked a man he was trying to arrest and the officer became angry when Mr. Harringer pulled out a camera phone and tried to record part of the encounter.

"It was him practicing his First Amendment rights," the mayor said.

He said he has known Mr. Harringer for about a month and chose him in part because of his experience in Congress.

He said Mr. Harringer thought his lawyer had taken care of the matter and he didn't realize a warrant had been issued for him.

The encounter put Mr. Harringer in "a tough situation but I think he did the right thing."

He said Mr. Harringer remains on his campaign staff.

According to West Palm Beach affidavit of probable cause, Mr. Harringer interfered as police questioned a witness Nov. 30.

A West Palm Beach officer was talking to a woman who was the apparent victim of a battery.

Police saw what happened and took a male suspect into custody, according to the affidavit.

While police still had the woman sequestered, Mr. Harringer came up, and it "appeared that Harringer was consoling her but was preventing her from answering our questions," according to the affidavit.

The officer first asked Mr. Harringer to "step back because he was interfering with my investigation" and then told him to step away from the crime scene.

Mr. Harringer then took out his iPhone to record part of the encounter, according to the affidavit.

He approached the scene several times while recording, according to the affidavit. The officer wrote in the affidavit that he warned Mr. Harringer more than once that he would be arrested for obstruction if he didn't stop. He wrote that he advised Mr. Harringer "no less than 8 times" to leave he scene.

More than once Mr. Harringer "demanded" a badge number for the officer who arrested the battery suspect.

According to the affidavit, Mr. Harringer also mentioned several names, including Congresswoman Lois Frankel, who he said he worked for, and Dave Arronburg, the state attorney for West Palm Beach, who he told officers he knew.

In his account, Mr. Harringer said he saw a man restrained in handcuffs, lying on the ground. He said he watched officers "physically mistreat" the man.

"What I witnessed was something I thought was an injustice, and I safely attempted to ask the officers for their badge numbers, and upon attempting to record it, was taken into custody," he said.

Mr. Harringer said he did not know the man or the woman police were trying to interview. He said he wasn't given a badge number when he asked. He said he was "at a distance, speaking to others who were around."

"After continuing to ask for the badge number, I was detained," he said.

Mr. Harringer, who said today he did not work for Congressman Frankel, said he misspoke when he told officers that he did.

He said he has not spoken with Mr. Arronburg recently.

"I was nervous and scared," he said.

He said it was an unfamiliar situation for him.

"I was just trying to do whatever I could to correct what I thought was an injustice," he said.

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Molly Born: mborn@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1944 and on Twitter: @borntolede. Liz Navratil contributed.


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