Pittsburgh police chief addresses arrest of Steelers' Porter
January 13, 2017 11:55 PM
Steelers outside linebackers coach Joey Porter talks to players during practice Friday on the South Side.
Acting Pittsburgh Police Chief, Scott Schubert, answers media questions about the Joey Porter incident at the Pittsburgh Police Headquarters on the North Side Friday.
By Liz Navratil / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Acting Pittsburgh police Chief Scott Schubert said Friday that he agrees with an officer’s decision to initially charge Steelers assistant coach Joey Porter with assault but also respects the district attorney, whose office plans to withdraw the most serious charges.
“I believe, based on the laws, and what Officer [Paul] Abel experienced, that he did file the appropriate charges, which were signed off [on] by a supervisor,” Chief Schubert said during an afternoon news conference at the police bureau’s North Side headquarters.
Chief Schubert spoke one day after the office of Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. announced that — barring any additional evidence — it planned to withdraw the most serious charges against Mr. Porter. The DA’s office said it viewed surviellance footage of a dispute Mr. Porter had with a police officer outside a bar on the South Side on Sunday night and determined that the only charges that should proceed were summary disorderly conduct and summary public drunkenness.
That announcement prompted the Steelers to reinstate Mr. Porter, who had been placed on leave. He was at Steelers practice Friday and is expected to travel with the team to Kansas City for Sunday’s AFC divisional-round playoff game against the Chiefs.
Chief Schubert said, “I stand by the officer, just as I would stand by any officer given the same circumstances ... He handled and filed the charges that he felt were necessary, and I think many officers put in those same shoes would have done the same thing.”
The chief said what he saw in videos of the incident was consistent with what Officer Abel wrote in an arrest affidavit.
Mr. Porter’s attorney, Robert Del Greco, said he had not seen all of the video of the incident but did obtain some footage from the bar using a subpoena.
“The video that I’ve reviewed on numerous occasions, in my humble opinion, does not make out a cause of action for the felony or misdemeanor charges that were deemed to be unwarranted by the district attorney’s office,” he said.
Officer Abel wrote in the arrest affidavit that he was called to The Flats on East Carson to address a dispute between Mr. Porter and a doorman. He wrote that Mr. Porter “lunged” at the doorman, lifted him off the ground and at one point grabbed Officer Abel by the wrists. He wrote that Mr. Porter “informed me that he was not touching me, as he was still holding my wrists,” Officer Abel wrote.
Officer Abel wrote that Mr. Porter released him and then backed into East Carson Street, saying at various times, “No! No! I didn’t do anything,” or, “You’re lying! I never touched you.”
No one was injured.
Officer Abel, who has declined requests to talk to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, drew departmental scrutiny Friday after a KDKA radio show with Marty Griffin. During the interview, a man, identified as Officer Abel, described the surveillance video and said he was “a little upset” the doorman was “not getting a say-so.”
The doorman declined to comment.
Chief Schubert said Friday afternoon that he was aware that Officer Abel had appeared on the show but had not yet had a chance to listen to it. He said he planned to review Officer Abel’s comments to determine whether he violated bureau policies that prohibit officers from speaking to reporters without permission.
Officer Robert Swartzwelder, president of the Pittsburgh police union, said he thought Officer Abel’s remarks should be permitted, as long as he spoke about information already available to the public.
Officials have declined Post-Gazette requests for the video, citing the ongoing criminal case. Chief Schubert said Friday that police will release the videos “after [the case] goes through the criminal proceedings.”
Liz Navratil: email@example.com, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil.
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