Thomas Olson was acquitted of Robbery. Steven C. Townsend, Mr. Olson’s attorney, said it took more time to for the court to order and have lunch delivered for the jury than it did for Mr. Olson’s peers to find Mr. Olson not guilty of Robbery, a first degree felony. Mr. Olson was facing the criminal charge as a result of an incident that occurred in the Lawrenceville section of Pittsburgh in August of 2009. The charge could have put Mr. Olson in prison for up to 20 years, plus an additional 5 years for the use of a weapon.
A pizza delivery man was robbed by an unknown white male who was wielding a “sawed-off” baseball bat. Fortunately for the man, he was not injured and the robber got away with only $20. There were phone records which led police to the telephone booth where the phone call was made to order the pizza. After the incident, police along with the victim, reviewed the video surveillance of the telephone where the call was made. The jurors however, were never provided the video because the Commonwealth said that the manager of the gas station where the call was made, had no idea how to preserve it. On cross examination, the detectives admitted that one of the most critical pieces of evidence in a robbery is identification, yet they failed to take steps to preserve the video.
More shocking than not producing the video is the fact that the assailant was described as being 5’10”. The victim was absolutely positive of this characteristic because he had approximately 30 seconds to view him as well as 10 seconds face to face. That being said, Mr Olson who is only 5’5″, was chosen from a photo array almost 2 months after the incident. At Mr. Olson’s preliminary hearing both the victim and the police detective testified that the victim identified Mr. Olson in the array. However, upon a careful reading of the transcript, it was apparent that this wasn’t the first photo array that was shown to the victim.
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Mr. Olson’s attorney, Steve Townsend, filed 2 separate motions requesting the Commonwealth provide the mandatory discovery. Although this information should have been provided upon the first informal request, Mr. Townsend had to argue on 2 occasions to receive it. Why was it so important? It was learned that the victim was shown Mr. Olson’s picture in another photo array 4 days after the incident — the victim failed to identify Mr. Olson. There was a reason for his lack of identification, Mr. Olson was innocent….Mr Olson was 5 inches shorter….Mr. Olson had 6 alibi witnesses, which the police failed to interview.
Shame on the police for trying to withhold this information. Shame on the Commonwealth for trying to prosecute an innocent man even though they had this information for over a year. Fortunately for Mr. Olson, his attorney didn’t waive his preliminary hearing, and didn’t accept the Commonwealth’s repeated response that it had provided all exculpatory discovery.