Clairton shooting suspect's fiancee testifies
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Brandy Balogh wasn't going to testify. She was willing to go to jail for contempt before she would take the stand against her fiance, Emilio Rivera, who is charged in the shooting of a Clairton police officer last year.
After discussing the ramifications of remaining silent, Ms. Balogh, 23, put her hands behind her back, was cuffed and taken to the courthouse holding area two floors below.
But in the span of just a few minutes, Mr. Rivera spoke with his defense attorney, who then spoke with Ms. Balogh's attorney, and the young woman and mother of Mr. Rivera's 14-month-old son returned to the courtroom and agreed to take the witness stand.
Her testimony, expected to be damning for Mr. Rivera and exculpatory for Marcus Andrejco, the co-defendant in the case, will continue today.
On direct examination by Deputy District Attorney Daniel Fitzsimmons, Ms. Balogh could remember little of an interview she did with Allegheny County homicide detectives on Oct. 26 -- the same day Mr. Rivera was arrested.
Even after being provided with a copy of the investigators' report of her interview, she denied any knowledge of the details of the crime.
"I never stated any of that," Ms. Balogh said. "All I remember is my life being torn apart on Oct. 26, when I lost my fiance and had to take care of my baby by myself."
Then Mr. Fitzsimmons played a six-minute recording of her statement, in which she explained that Mr. Rivera called her the night of the April 4, 2011, shooting.
"He said he had gotten into some [stuff] and he probably was not going to make it back and to take care of the baby," she said in the recording.
Ms. Balogh then told investigators she called Mr. Rivera's mother and eventually met up with him at her sister's home.
"I asked what happened. He was all shook up," she said in the recording.
It wasn't until the next morning, when he told her, "That the house had got surrounded. Somebody was trying to set him up, and he had to force his way out. He said he went up over a hill, through some woods and threw the gun in some bushes."
On cross-examination by Mr. Rivera's defense attorney, Paul Gettleman, Ms. Balogh said she only told police what they wanted to hear.
"They threatened to take my son off me," she said. "I'm going to say whatever they want me to say in order to go back home to my son."
Ms. Balogh told the jury that the investigators wanted her to say that Mr. Rivera was involved in the home invasion on Miller Avenue and shooting of Officer James Kuzak.
"They kept on telling me, 'You know Emilio did it. You guys are close. He tells you everything.' "
"Were you feeling intimidated?" Mr. Gettleman asked.
"Yes," Ms. Balogh answered.
"Because they threatened to lock me up, too," she continued. "I made it up."
Ms. Balogh said that the investigators went over the questions and answers with her several times before they turned the recorder on, and when they first began talking she told them Mr. Rivera wasn't involved.
"I remember them getting mad, banging on the table and telling me that's not what they wanted to hear."
Ralph Karsh, who represents Mr. Andrejco, wondered how Ms. Balogh could remember so clearly her interview with police during Mr. Gettleman's examination, but not at all during the prosecution's.
"He asked the questions in a different way," she answered.
"Isn't it true you would say anything for your man?" Mr. Karsh asked.
"No," she answered. "I'd say anything for my son."
First Published August 8, 2012 12:00 am