PITTSBURGH — Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala has instructed his office to refuse all plea deals for clients of attorney Milton Raiford just days after Mr. Raiford criticized the DA’s office for what he characterized as systematic racism, according to a report published today.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania responded to the report in a statement. The following can be attributed to Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania:
“It is unethical for a DA to order a blanket ban on offering plea deals to an individual attorney’s clients. It’s also a violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. If true, these allegations are deeply disturbing.
“District attorneys are some of the most powerful people in the criminal legal system. They have the power to determine what charges are filed against an individual and what criminal proceedings stem from those charges. The allegation that DA Zappala instructed his subordinates to outright refuse to offer plea deals to clients of an attorney who criticized the DA’s office underscores that vast power.
“Indeed, retaliating against an attorney who complains about racism in the DA’s office by refusing to offer plea agreements to his clients is itself arguably evidence of bias.
“We call for full accountability for Mr. Zappala and his office and a swift and comprehensive investigation into these allegations by the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and Attorney General Josh Shapiro.”