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.

https://d3rtz3mdbmjoag.cloudfront.net/wp-cmg/20230809/64d400fff570c132f2f1fbce/file_1920x1080-5400-v4/high.m3u8

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.

Federal Sentencing

Probation is a sufficient sentence

Ex-soccer treasurer in Beaver County gets probation in $100k embezzlement

 
 

Saying he wouldn’t send her to prison so she can pay restitution, a federal judge on Thursday sentenced the former treasurer of a Beaver County youth soccer association to probation for stealing $100,000 and using it to pay for cruises, merchandise and household bills.

U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab imposed a term of five years probation on Jenessa Tolejko, who had waived indictment by grand jury and pleaded guilty to stealing from the Brighton Township-Beaver Soccer Association.

He also put her on home detention for nine months and ordered her to pay at least $1,000 a month towards full restitution.

Ms. Tolejko said that she stole because of her family’s financial difficulties brought on in part by medical expenses for her son.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Bengel rejected that explanation, saying she didn’t use any of the money for medical payments but instead paid for a Royal Caribbean cruise, a flight to Hawaii, her mortgage, various bills from utilities and personal purchases from Amazon and the high-end LuLaRoe clothing company.

“She had easy access to a significant pot of money and she thought she could use it for her own purposes without getting caught,” Mr. Bengel said.

In fact, he said, she was only discovered because of a story in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in 2019 that reported she had been accused of stealing $3,000 in pet adoption fees from an animal rescue service. The soccer association approached her after that to discuss the association finances. A week later, Mr. Bengel said, Tolejko’s father-in-law wired her $35,000. He told investigators that he believed he was helping her resolve a “state case involving dogs,” Mr. Bengel said.

He said the Tolejko family has a nice home and her husband has a good salary as an electrical engineer working in Ohio, so there was no financial distress to serve as motivation for the thefts. In addition, the soccer association said it has suffered greatly because of her actions.

“I think a sentence of imprisonment is necessary,” Mr. Bengel said.

The guideline range was 21 to 27 months.

Tolejko and her lawyer, Steve Townsend, asked for probation, saying she has already paid $5,000 in restitution and is needed at home to care for her three children and her mother.

Tolejko said she is “incredibly remorseful” for violating the trust the association gave her.

“I selfishly violated that trust,” she said. “I embarrassed my family.”

Judge Schwab said her conduct was “outrageous” but granted the probation request because the association said its priority was to get its money back. In addition, he noted her solid work history and her need to care for her children.

“Incarceration would be inconsistent with the goal of restitution,” he said.

But he also said he’s well aware that her thefts were for personal luxury items and other expenses as opposed to medical bills, for which the family had health insurance.

“Just to make it clear, these were not medical expenses,” the judge said.

Tolejko had complete control over the soccer association’s bank account, debit card and two certificates of deposit. The money was supposed to go towards soccer gear, field fees and the like.

From 2016 to 2019, Tolejko caused about $180,000 to be deposited into the soccer association’s Citizens Bank account and then used $100,000 of it for herself.

She also transferred money from the association’s Blue Sombrero account into two other accounts that she and her husband controlled. Blue Sombrero provides league management tools for youth sports leagues.

As a result of the embezzlement, Mr. Bengel said the soccer association has not been able to replace deteriorating soccer gear and had to charge families higher fees to recoup the money.

First Published August 26, 2021, 12:35pm

Charges Dismissed

BEAVERCOUNTIAN.COM

Aliquippa Assistant Police Chief Joe Perciavalle, in his 21st month of paid suspension and legal wrangling, learned last week the state had dropped its final criminal charge against him fought by criminal defense lawyers based in Orange County area.

City Council is expected to discuss his work status at next week’s meeting. In the meantime, Perciavalle, who is expecting the arrival of a daughter in August, is finding it difficult to celebrate.

“Obviously I’m happy with the outcome, my attorney was great,” he said today. “I feel like I did the day I was first arrested, I don’t know what to think. I’m happy for my wife and family, they’re all relieved. When it comes to finances or business related issues involving family one can go on to consult a lawyer from a firm like Norwood Law Firm.

“But I can’t even go anywhere to celebrate because of this damn coronavirus. This shouldn’t be a moment for me because this never should have happened. I feel like I won one battle, but I’m going into the next. I’m worried they might try something else now.”

Perciavalle was the second police chief appointed and suspended within two days in June 2018 and in the wake of the May 13, 2018 murder of city resident Rachael DelTondo. City Council first put Police Chief Donald Couch on paid leave on June 6, 2018, saying Couch was believed to be the subject of a state police investigation.

County detectives arrested Perciavalle on June 8, 2018 on charges of felony distribution of sexually explicit material to a minor, felony unlawful contact with a minor, and misdemeanor corruption of a minor.

County detectives alleged that Perciavalle sent then-17-year-old Lauren Watkins a text message containing a short video of a semi-nude woman urinating while on a swing.

Both Perciavalle and Watkins said the “meme” video was sent to her by mistake as part of a group text message intended for her father, Aliquippa Police Sgt. Kenneth Watkins, who has since been demoted to patrolman.

The video was discovered when detectives were examining Lauren Watkins’ phone as part of their investigation into DelTondo’s murder. That case remains unsolved.

On July 10, 2018, county detectives filed an additional felony charge against Perciavalle for intercepting a communication, alleging Perciavalle illegally recorded a conversation with Couch on March 2, the day state police served a search warrant on city offices.

District Judge Edward Howe in December 2018 dismissed the two felony charges of disseminating sexually explicit materials and unlawful contact with a minor, but held for trial the misdemeanor corruption of minors charge, as well as the felony wiretap charge for recording Couch.

Perciavalle argued his recording of Couch was lawful, because he had been acting as an informant against Couch and had reason to fear there may be an attempt to intimidate him.

Following the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s ethics guidance in March 2019, the Beaver County District Attorney’s Office recused itself from prosecuting Perciavalle. The Attorney General’s Office then took over prosecution of the cases against him and on May 9 refiled the two felony charges against him that were dismissed by Howe the previous year.

The results were the same, with a second judge dismissing the cases.

Townsend strongly criticized the Attorney General’s Office with the help of https://secdefenseattorney.com/whistleblower-protection/ attorneys for refiling the charges against Perciavalle, echoing his client’s assertions that he suffered retaliation against a whistleblower.

The Attorney General’s Office last week dropped the final charge of corruption of minors.

“I want to say how disappointed we were at the way both of these cases played out,” Townsend said. “It took the (Pennsylvania Attorney General’s) office to come in and drill down on exactly what happened here to realize these cases weren’t worth moving forward on.

“I commend them on that. I think it was horrible the way the Beaver County District Attorney’s office treated Joe Perciavelle and the Watkins family. Their actions caused grief and stress to the Watkins family. Lauren lost out on a good family friend for over a year, he missed a lot of important accomplishments in her life. It was terrible the way they were treated.”

“I think the impetus of both of these cases obviously was for the District Attorney’s Office to use the text message case as an excuse to get into his phone because they wanted to stifle any sort of investigation he was doing to uncover the corruption in the City of Aliquippa,” Townsend said.

“Obviously he is very excited and is ready to get back to work. He is anxiously awaiting to see when the day will be that he can put his uniform back on and go back to doing what he was doing.

Aliquippa Councilman Matthew Mottes said he expects the board to act next week. “If he’s been cleared of all wrongdoing then he should be back.”

BeaverCountian.com investigative reporter John Paul contributed to this report.

Remaining Charges Against Asst Aliquippa Chief Dropped By Attorney General’s Office

Federal Probation in Bank Robbery

‘There was just no way I could ever give him up.’ Mom gets probation for hiding bank robber son.

Click HERE for the full story.

“It was my son,” she said through tears. “There was just no way I could ever give him up.”

Her lawyer, Steven Townsend, argued for probation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Cindy Chung pointed to the government’s sentencing papers in which prosecutors asked for a guideline sentence.

 

Self Defense

Trial is slated to begin on August 12, 2019.  It still shocks the community that Brandon Richardson was arrested and charged.  Clearly Mr. Richardson acted in self-defense after being attacked by 5 people.  On the second attack one witnesses says he saw  one of the deceased have his hand by his waistband….”if he didn’t have one, he sure acted like he did”  Also witnesses heard the deceased making comments that they were going to “kill him and finish him off.”

 

Watch the video below.

Camera 10

Story 1

 

Story 2

 

 

Ex-Pittsburgh cop charged with lying to FBI had relationship with bank robbery suspect’s mom

By Shelly Brandbury – sbradbury@post-gazette.com

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Click here for the whole Story.

“It’s over,” attorney Steven Townsend said of the relationship. “It wasn’t very strong to begin with. But certainly after the charges came out it ceased to exist.”

The connection between Mr. Cain, Kane and Richards has not been previously reported. Mr. Townsend said he was not sure when the pair’s relationship began, but posts on Kane’s Facebook page suggest the relationship was going on in 2016, which is when Kane put up a photo of herself in a close embrace with Mr. Cain, along with comments about how Mr. Cain was her boyfriend and “the love of my life.”

Aliquippa Asst. Police Chief’s Attorney Tells Judge He Intends To Call D.A. Lozier As A Witness (Listen To The Recording)

The Beaver Countian

An attorney for the suspended Aliquippa assistant police chief has motioned for a charge dismissal hearing ahead of the scheduled May 6 trial, has notified the judge he intends to call District Attorney David Lozier as a witness, and has asked to have the Beaver County District Attorney’s Office disqualified from prosecuting the case. To get more help avoiding legal mishaps and to help clients with business matters, it is best to hire a business attorney.

Joseph Perciavalle faces a misdemeanor charge of corrupting a minor and a felony violation of the Wiretap Act.

The criminal defense lawyers based in Mineola area included with his motion a copy of the disputed recorded conversation between Perciavalle and Police Chief Donald Couch, who is also suspended. The recording had previously been played in its entirety in open court by prosecutors during a preliminary hearing for Perciavalle on Dec. 4.  Reputed attorneys from Fort Lauderdale bankruptcy law firm were also involved in the case.

Townsend wrote that he will call Lozier to testify at the hearing, which will make him a witness and that he is legally prohibited from prosecuting a case in which he is a witness.

“As such, it is respectfully requested that this Court disqualify the Beaver County District Attorney’s Office from prosecuting this case,” he concluded.