Rape defendant takes plea deal, gets probation in 4-year case
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The case against a Wilkinsburg man was first dismissed on a technicality but ultimately reversed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, giving prosecutors another crack at convicting David L. Bradford of rape and kidnapping.
The culmination of the four-year court battle was expected to begin Wednesday when Bradford went to trial before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Donna Jo McDaniel.
Instead, after 10 jurors had been selected, the prosecution offered to drop seven of the counts against him -- five of them felonies -- and allow Bradford to plead no contest to one misdemeanor count of unlawful restraint.
He took the deal and got two years probation.
Defense attorney Kevin Abramovitz said no other offer was made to his client before Wednesday.
"The commonwealth recognized the weaknesses and limitations in its case," he said. "We eliminated the risk involved in going to trial.
"I was confident we would walk out with an acquittal, but the risk [he] could go to prison for decades isn't worth it."
Mr. Abramovitz said he was confident in his case because there was no rape since his client had consensual sex with the alleged victim.
He said that the two spent the evening of Sept. 21, 2008, together, watched a movie, and she borrowed Bradford's cell phone and made about a dozen calls on it during the time they were together.
He was arrested four days later and had a preliminary hearing on Oct. 9, 2008, before Magisterial District Judge Kevin E. Cooper.
The charges were bound over to Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, but besides sending a transcript of the hearing to court in April 2009, no activity occurred on the case until Oct. 9, 2009 -- one year and 10 days after Bradford's arrest.
His defense attorney filed a motion to dismiss the charges based on a violation of Pennsylvania Rule 600, which requires that a defendant cannot remain in custody for more than 180 days, or be free on bond for more than 365, without a trial.
Judge Randal B. Todd granted the motion, saying the DA's office failed to act with due diligence to bring the case to trial. His opinion was upheld by the state Superior Court.
But in May, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed, finding that the DA's office was not to blame, and instead attributed the mix-up to the magistrate's office for failing to forward Bradford's paperwork to the courts.
The defense, which previously criticized prosecutors for failing to bring the case to trial quickly enough, said Wednesday that the entire case, charged by Wilkinsburg police, was poorly investigated.
For example, Mr. Abramovitz said that investigators on the case did not follow up with two of the people who were called by the victim on Bradford's cell phone until last month.
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. would not specifically comment on Wilkinsburg's role investigating the case but did note that none of the officers in the 22-person department have attended training offered through his office to become certified in sexual assault investigation.
"There is a very substantial difference in abilities of police agencies to be involved in these cases," Mr. Zappala said.
Wilkinsburg police Chief Ophelia Coleman would not talk about the defense allegations and referred questions to the DA's office.
"They're the ones who handled the case," she said. "I wasn't the lead investigator."
When told Mr. Zappala's comments, she said, "He can have his response."
According to Mr. Zappala, the plea was offered Wednesday because the victim "did not want to testify, nor did she want to be a victim anymore."
He admitted that the case against Bradford was a difficult one.
"I disagree with the characterization of the case as weak," he said. "Charging something, and ultimately proving something are two different matters.
"If my guys are convinced a woman said 'no,' I'll prosecute the case. Sometimes it's not all physical evidence."
But in the Bradford case, Mr. Zappala said the other evidence hinged on the victim's testimony.
Bradford, 33, has a record that includes convictions for threatening a woman with a knife in 1994, forcing a woman into her home at gunpoint and two attempts to kidnap women at gunpoint in 1998.
He has remained out of jail on bond for three years on this case and has had no problems with law enforcement. He is working as a cook.
First Published November 1, 2012 12:00 am