Pennsylvania district attorney forbids plea deals with Black attorney who spoke out about racism

Pennsylvania district attorney forbids plea deals with Black attorney who spoke out about racism

“The cases may proceed on the information as filed,” he added, “whether by general plea, nonjury or jury trial. Withdrawal of any charges must be approved by the front office.”

Raiford told the Tribune-Review he made the remarks out of frustration about systemic racism in Pittsburgh that the district attorney’s office offered no statement about“I can’t tell you the depth of hurt in my spirit that our courthouse has been silent on it,” he said. “They’re not doing anything to assure our community of color that things are going to change. They won’t even acknowledge that things need to change.”

He said on Wednesday in a statement KDKA obtained in response to Zappala’s email that the email won’t stop him from fighting. “I must by virtue of the calling of my life continue to fight for the oppressed, to labor to bring about the world that was seen throughout the eyes of my ancestors and Martin Luther King, Jr.,” Raiford said. “I will always speak out on injustice. My prayer for Mr. Zappala is that he repent for possessing mindset that he has and finds the peace that I found.”


State Rep. Emily Kinkead called for Zappala “to resign or be removed immediately … He just admitted that his office dispenses justice differently based on who is involved in the case and not the facts of the case,” Kinkead said in a Twitter thread. “Zappala has betrayed his oath of office.”

She added in the thread:

In case you were not aware, this is what lawyers are taught that prosecutors should be (a far cry from what Zappala has made his office): “A prosecutor has the responsibility of a minister of justice and not simply that of an advocate. The responsibility of a public prosecutor…

…differs from that of a usual advocate; his duty is to seek justice, not merely to convict. Such an attorney is a representative not of an ordinary party to a controversy, but of a sovereignty whose obligation is to govern impartially; …

and whose interest, therefore, in a criminal prosecution is not it shall win a case, but that justice shall be done. The criminal justice system would be a travesty if a prosecutor, holding years of someone’s life in their hands, cared about nothing but notching another victory.”

Allegheny County Councilor Anita Prizio and State Reps. Summer Lee and Jessica Benham also called for Zappala to resign. “This is unacceptable behavior, consistent with the history of this district attorney’s office that fails to grapple with the systemic racism in our criminal legal system,” Benham told the Pittsburgh City Paper in a statement. “DA Zappala should resign.” 

Allegheny County Councilor Anita Prizio called Zappala’s email “shocking and unacceptable” in a tweet. “Justice must be determined based on the facts of a case, not based on whether the attorney is sufficiently deferential to the DA. Zappala must resign,” Prizio said.


Zappala, who’s served for more than two decades as Allegheny County’s top prosecutor, has been criticized as a racist long before he sent an email all but cementing his planned discrimination. Under his leadership, the district attorney’s office charged Black juveniles as adults 20 times more frequently than their white peers, the Pittsburgh City Paper reported. He also backed a decision to refile “failure to disperse” charges against 16 Black Lives Matter demonstrators even after the Associated Press unearthed a Facebook group of current and former cops calling the protesters “terrorists” or “thugs.”

Allegheny County Councilor at-large Bethany Hallam said in a statement to the Pittsburgh City Paper that if Zappala doesn’t resign, she will lobby the county council to take his directions into account when deciding the office’s budget. “The fact that Zappala issued this edict — which is both unimaginably petty, yet extremely troubling — demonstrates to us clearly that he is not fit to lead that office,” Hallam said in the statement. “If he does not voluntarily step down from his position, I promise I will ensure my fellow councilmembers take his actions into consideration in our upcoming county budget discussions.”

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Rachel Meadows

Rachel Meadows

Trending topics news writer who enjoys cooking, walking her dog and travel.

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