PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Pittsburgh mayoral candidate A.J. Richardson made a statement prior to a debate Wednesday evening, just hours after being released from jail following his arrest for alleged DUI early Wednesday morning.
Police say the 36-year-old was passed out behind the wheel of his minivan, with the engine still running.READ MORE: Uncertainty Surrounds New Omicron Variant: 'We Don't Have Answers Yet'
Police also say there was damage to the front end of the vehicle, and a flat tire.
KDKA’s Brenda Waters Reports:
They say when they attempted to arrest him, he was verbally abusive, and kept yelling that he was going to be mayor and knew his rights.
But Richardson denied the DUI charge and told reporters when he was released from jail this afternoon that he was not passed out behind the wheel of his Ford minivan in the West End on Steuben Street at 3 a.m., nor was he drunk, calling it “a strategic attack on A.J. Richardson.”
Richardson went on to tell reporters: “This is a weak, feeble attempt to discredit me as a strong candidate for the mayoral election. This is all it is.”
Richardson also said his phone had been tapped and that he is being followed.
The candidate said he is still in the race.
Later in the evening at a mayoral debate on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh in Oakland, Richardson made a statement but then excused himself before it officially got underway.
He said in part: “I shouldn’t have been drinking and got behind the wheel of a vehicle. It was senseless; it was reckless. It’s not who I am, and this particular debate, I feel it is fitting for me to excuse myself at this because I have to mentally and emotionally regroup. I need to spend this time in prayer and with my wife and with my children. And also, I’m going to have to take responsibility for my actions. So, next week I will be going to the court and I will plead guilty to the charges.”READ MORE: 2 Injured After Stabbing In Pittsburgh's Arlington Heights Neighborhood
KDKA’s Christine D’Antonio Reports:
But this isn’t the first time Richardson has been in trouble with the law. According to records, he was arrested for harassment, which included physical contact last spring and pleaded guilty in the fall.
Richardson told reporters he believes he’s being strategically attacked to discredit him as a strong mayoral candidate.
“They’re watching me. I mean, it’s unfortunate the only thing I want is a level playing field, a fair shake here, you know. Tapping my phones, following me in supermarkets – it’s that type of thing.”
Also at the debate, his fellow candidates spoke out about Richardson’s arrest.
“I’ve gotten to meet A.J. over two debates and I like him,” said City Councilman Bill Peduto. “I’ve got to meet his wife and kids and I don’t think it’s fair to cast judgment.”
“I pray for A.J. and his family. I hope that they are able to work through all of this and we’re going to stay focused on all the things that matter in this race,” added Pa. Rep. Jake Wheatley.
Richardson has become well known because of his numerous tattoos, which he calls his battle scars.
His preliminary hearing is scheduled for April 10 at City Court.MORE NEWS: Labor Secretary Marty Walsh Says Build Back Better Will Help Retrain Workers For Pittsburgh's Jobs Of The Future