PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Stephen Zappala has been Allegheny County’s District Attorney for over twenty years.
“Do you still enjoy being district attorney?” KDKA political editor Jon Delano asked Zappala during a sit-down interview on Thursday. “I love it. It’s an honor,” said Zappala.READ MORE: Amendment Made To Pittsburgh's CROWN Act
But no doubt this past year has been challenging.
“Hey hey, ho ho, Steve Zappala has got to go,” protesters chanted outside his office building earlier this year. In the wake of the acquittal of former police officer Michael Rosfeld, whom Zappala prosecuted for shooting Antwon Rose II, protesters have directed their ire against Zappala.
“How many people were from outside Allegheny County, outside the region?” said Zappala, referring to the protesters.
“Oh, so you think these were folks who were coming in from the outside?” asked Delano.
“We know they were,” replied Zappala.
Whoever they are, Zappala does know he has a challenger in the Democratic primary: former Assistant Public Defender Turahn Jenkins, who has criticized Zappala’s prosecution in the Rosfeld-Antwon Rose II case.
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“I would have done a lot of things differently, first of which I would have tried that case,” said Jenkins in late March. “There wasn’t a whole lot of enthusiasm on behalf of the prosecution from what I saw,” he added.READ MORE: Shaler And North Allegheny Girls Basketball Teams Take Stand Against Racism
“I don’t know what he’s talking about,” Zappala said in response. He says with Assistant District Attorneys Fitzsimmons and Fodi, who prosecuted Rosfeld, he had the most experienced team who have prosecuted over 190 homicides.
“With all due respect to anybody else, these guys know what they’re doing, and they know what to do in the courtroom,” Zappala said. He added, “Jon, go back to these protesters, there’s just such a lack of civility. These people are out in the street chanting, and this family didn’t even have a chance to bury their son.”
But Michelle Kenney, mother of Antwon Rose, recently endorsed Jenkins over Zappala.
In response, Zappala shared a letter his prosecutors received from Kenney during the trial. Her letter praised the prosecutors for their hard work and sleepless nights, saying she had faith in them, and apologizing for being overbearing, protective, and sometimes bossy.
Now, Zappala says, it’s just politics. “Now it’s different. It’s more about politics than the trial of a case,” he says.
Zappala tells KDKA’s Jon Delano that he shares protesters concerns’ about the wording of state law that empowers police officers to shoot at fleeing suspected felons under certain circumstances. But he says a faster way to change that is through the state Supreme Court changing jury instructions.
Zappala compares Jenkins’ philosophy on crime to that of the new District Attorney in Philadelphia County where homicides, he says, are up to 351 last year compared to 108 in Allegheny County.
Jenkins says you can’t compare the two counties, claiming that violent crime under the new Philadelphia DA is actually declining.MORE NEWS: 1 Dead After Shooting At Washington County Convenience Store
Democrats will pick their nominee for DA next Tuesday.