On its second try, the city has finally made Carole Wiedmann pay for the crime of finding herself too near a police dog.
Wiedmann, 68, of Ohio Township, was part of a crowd of more than 100 people at an Oakland anti-military recruitment demonstration on Aug. 20 last year. After city, Port Authority and University of Pittsburgh police used pepper spray and stun guns to arrest three others in front of a Forbes Ave. recruiting station, Pittsburgh K-9 Officer Christian Sciulli arrived with his police dog, taking a position at the back of the crowd as he and several officers ordered people to disperse.
Wiedmann maintains she was attempting to leave but was blocked by those in front of her when the dog tried to bite her on the back of her thigh, ripping her trousers. She was sent an arrest summons by mail days later and charged with failure to disperse ... a misdemeanor. On Dec. 7, District Magistrate Cathleen Cawood Bubash dismissed the charges.
But in May, Wiedmann was hit with the same charges once again ... for the same incident. "The charge of 'failure to disperse upon order' was refiled because the officer disagreed with the district judge's decision to dismiss the charge," says Pittsburgh Police spokesperson Tammy Ewin. "He elected to refile and the district attorney's office saw no problem with doing so."
Such a move is nearly unprecedented in the experience of Wiedmann's lawyer, Mike Healey of the Downtown firm of Healey & Hornack, who has defended many a protester through several decades.
But it worked on Wiedmann, at least partway, during the preliminary hearing July 27. Sciulli testified, as he had at the first hearing, that Wiedmann was "sitting on the sidewalk, her legs crossed," when he arrived. This contradicts eyewitnesses and videotapes that show Wiedmann standing at the back of the crowd while another man, David Strouthers, sat cross-legged on the sidewalk. But preliminary hearings do not allow for such evidence to be presented.
Strouthers has already pled guilty and paid a fine on summary charges after his arrest.
District Magistrate Kevin Cooper threw out Wiedmann's misdemeanor charge but found her guilty of a summary offense ... disorderly conduct.
"Am I crazy?" Wiedmann wondered aloud afterwards, as she and a group of supporters shook their heads at police testimony.
Cooper fined her $300 and gave her 30 days to pay. She and her lawyer say they'll certainly appeal the verdict.