Century III Mall

https://triblive.com/business/century-iii-mall-owners-joust-with-allegheny-county-da-over-razing-blighted-property/?fbclid=IwAR05OfxhwK-LkMDGFF26KJkEFY9XoIFvpZv3H1S30busnxzOi3-02V-iKsY

The owners of the blighted Century III Mall said in court papers filed this week that they have contracted with a company to raze the property, but they claim that the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office is interfering with their ability to carry out the demolition.

A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Friday.

The owners, Century III Mall PA LLC, have asked to postpone the hearing, scheduled before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jill E. Rangos, but the district attorney’s office refused to consent.

The owners now accuse District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. of purposely interfering in their business relations.

In January, Zappala filed criminal charges against the mall’s owners, including causing or risking a catastrophe and making a public nuisance, with the aim of seizing ownership of the 1.3-million-square-foot building to have it demolished.

Steven Townsend, the lawyer who represents the mall in the criminal case, wrote in a court filing Thursday that the “commonwealth is refusing to cooperate and accept the exact relief requested in its petition — abatement of the nuisance.”

First Assistant District Attorney Rebecca Spangler, the DA’s spokeswoman, said she could not comment.

Century III Mall, which opened in 1979 as a shopping destination in West Mifflin, was bought at a sheriff’s sale in 2013 for $10.5 million.

In the years since, it fell into disrepair until its last store, JC Penney, closed in October 2020. The property has continually deteriorated from fire and deferred maintenance. The roof has fallen in, and parking structures have collapsed.

From February 2019 to January 2024, West Mifflin police received 177 calls for service at the property, and a structure fire there in April required more than 100 firefighters to put it out.

Then in June, a teenager fell through the roof.

The DA’s office said in a court filing that the mall, once one of the biggest shopping centers in the world, has now become one of the most popular trespassing destinations for people identifying themselves as “urban explorers.”

The owners have been repeatedly fined for the conditions there. A fine in July was for $240,000.

In addition to filing criminal charges, the DA’s office also filed a petition for a temporary restraining order in the case.

The petition seeks to have the property razed and outlines two potential phases. In the first, the demolition and remediation work would go out for bid. Then, the contract would be awarded to the lowest bidder and the state would have to obtain the funds to do the work.

A second potential phase would include new infrastructure, development and sale of the property.

But the mall’s owners said in their Thursday court filing that the DA’s office has no funds secured to raze the property.

In the meantime, the owners have an active application pending with the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, which provides grant money for projects that maintain or increase levels of employment and tax revenue.

“Without sufficient funds to begin the demolition, the commonwealth would need to request funding from the General Assembly or other public tax-funded resources, which request, if granted, would arguably take months if not years to obtain,” Townsend wrote.

That, he said, is counter to what the district attorney’s stated goals were in demolishing the property to ensure public safety.

According to Townsend’s motion, the demolition contract submitted by the mall’s owners for “immediate phased razing” renders the issue moot.

“Instead of fostering cooperation to further the goals of the public, petitioner is thwarting any action toward abatement,” Townsend wrote.

The request to postpone the hearing, Townsend said, is so the property owners can show their “good faith commitment to razing the property.”

But West Mifflin Mayor Chris Kelly said he thinks that the hearing should go on as scheduled.

“The next time (they) tell me anything that’s truthful, it will be the first time,” Kelly said of the mall’s owners. “I won’t believe that until I see the big ball swinging and knocking down the building.”

The owners approached the borough for a demolition permit on Wednesday, but Kelly said he is still not convinced.

In the past, he said, the mall’s owners have told borough officials that they would repair roads on the property and the building’s fire suppression system. But, he said, they never did.

“I don’t believe anything (they) say,” Kelly said. “I have no faith in them.”

Paula Reed Ward is a TribLive reporter covering federal and Allegheny County courts. She joined the Trib in 2019 after spending nearly 17 years at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where she was part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning team. She is the author of “Death by Cyanide.” She can be reached at pward@triblive.com.

HUNG JURY – SEX ASSAULT

Client’s sex assault trial ends in a hung jury after the jury decided that the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office could not prove their case. The Commonwealth’s alleged victim and witnesses clearly did not convince the jury of the FALSE allegations. In fact, through effective cross examination it was abundantly clear that the motive behind the false allegations stemmed from a bitter and contested divorce.

Moreover, it became clear that the real issue was how much money could be extorted from the accused. Attorney Steven C. Townsend promised and successfully delivered to the jury the proof of the extortion motive with a jaw dropping piece of evidence the Commonwealth did not see coming……the “extortion note” written and authenticated by the mother.

It is expected that the case will be tried again, and the Commonwealth yet again try to convict an innocent man.

A hung jury does not, in any way, imply guilt. In fact, it signifies that the client is NOT GUILTY. In this case, it underscores the lack of evidence and the incredible testimony of the alleged victim’s false allegations.

Steven C. Townsend is committed to upholding the principles of justice and the presumption of innocence. This case is a reminder of the legal system’s complexity and the importance of hiring competent counsel to protect the rights of the innocent.

No DNA, Weapon or Motive

Steve Townsend addresses the lack of evidence in this case.

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BEAVER, Pa. —

Eighteen-year-old Nasean Hunt will stand trial in what authorities have described as the execution-style killing of 15-year-old Asaun Moreland one month ago in Ambridge, Beaver County.

In a preliminary hearing Wednesday, the prosecution presented five witnesses, including two eyewitnesses to the killing. The defense tried but failed to convince District Judge Eileen Conroy there wasn’t enough to hold the defendant for trial.

On July 9, Moreland was shot several times by two figures wearing hoodies and dressed in dark clothing. It happened on Church Street near the Ambridge library.

Moreland’s family was in the courtroom to hear the testimony and the decision.

“We’re just grateful, and our nephew, my brother’s son, my mother’s grandson, we are getting justice. We are getting justice., yes we are, and we are grateful, said Samantha Gibson, an aunt of the victim.

“It’s beyond a reasonable doubt, and justice will be served. yes it will, said Bambi Moreland, also an aunt of the victim.

Authorities have said Hunt was one of two shooters — including one unidentified and still at large — who shot and killed Moreland.

Witnesses testified Wednesday to hearing rapid gunfire that sounded like fireworks and then seeing two figures dressed in dark clothing, including hoodies, gunning down a third figure.

 Asaun Moreland vigil in Ambridge Ambridge community honors 15-year-old shooting victim, prays for healing

None of them specifically identified Hunt, citing darkening conditions, and dark clothing, including hoodies and masks, worn by those who fired the shots.

One neighbor testified he followed the shooters while he was on the phone with 911 and saw one of them enter an apartment building.

Police testified to getting a warrant, searching that building, and finding Hunt — the only person who matched the clothing description.

Hunt’s defense attorney argued that there was no evidence actually linking Hunt directly to the crime.

“I think it’s a very thin case. I don’t think there’s anything that really ties my client to the scene, let alone the shooting. Other than the fact that he’s an individual, a Black individual, who had black clothing at the house. There’s nothing that tied him to this murder scene,” said attorney Steven Townsend.

“I would submit to you that you go downtown in Ambridge, look around and see what individuals are wearing. And about 80 percent of them are going to be wearing black hoodies and black sweat pants and some kind of tennis shoe,” Townsend said.

Lawyer for woman charged in fatal Ross Township hit-and-run says client had ‘no idea’ she hit anyone

Steve Townsend represents 39-year-old Erin Petroski, who is charged with vehicular homicide and driving under the influence after police said she hit and killed 31-year-old Elizabeth Griser on Babcock Boulevard on Jan. 13.

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Not Guilty

Great person. Even greater attorney. I knew from our first meeting that he was the best. A completely honest and trustworthy man. Atty. Townsend will always be the name i recomend to others in need of representation.

M.D.

Comes in Like a Wrecking Ball

This man (Mr. Townsend) is an incredible person. He is kind, attentive and comes in like a wrecking ball to fight and win for you with everything he’s got! He’s funny yet completely honest and professional. I would recommend him to anyone with out a doubt in my mind and with out question! He is a good man who is great at his job! I could not have asked for anyone better to represent myself. I cannot speak highly enough of him and how he goes above and beyond!

The Kaper Family

Unfounded & False Reports of Sexual Assault

Sexual assault has been consistently shown to be the most underreported violent crime in the United States.1, 2 Victims cite a range of reasons for not reporting their victimizations to law enforcement, including feelings of shame and self-blame, fear of not being believed, and accusations about complicity in the crime.3–5 Another complexity within sexual assault reporting is possible false reporting. Research suggests that about 2%–10% of sexual assault reports are false.

For more information click here.

5 Stars

To begin if there were more stars available I would definitely rate Mr. Townsend a 100 stars. Mr. Townsend has been an ambassador of defense and professional representation not just for myself but for my family members and good friends the same. Always does his upmost to get the best results in whatever matter legally. If ever one would need legal representation, I would strongly recommend them th e best legal representation there is with Mr. Townsend. An attorney can always trust and feel secure with.