Warning: Long post.
I received an email not too long ago from a reader who asked me to comment on the whole Cyril Wecht vs. Stephen Zappala mess. I was like, “Why? Who gives a …”
The writer of the email, who for all I know could be one of Cyril’s friends, said he felt like the whole mess was a witch hunt. PittGirl is starting to agree a little bit.
First, the basics:
In this corner we have Cyril Wecht. Isn’t he just so squeezably cute?
He was the Allegheny County coroner, but he’s also known as a forensics expert, so you might have seen him on Larry King or any national news shows talking up the deaths of Elvis, JonBenet, Kennedy, etc. He’s an arrogant little dude.
As coroner, in addition to basically determining why some people kicked the bucket, he was responsible for making recommendations to the DA about whether certain deaths were homicides or accidents, etc.
In this corner we have one of 2005’s Most Beautiful Pittsburghers (just, no.) and the District Attorney, Mr. Stephen Zappala.
In 2002, Cyril did an autopsy on a man that died at the hands of four policemen. He ruled that the man was suffocated and therefore it was a homicide and charges should be filed against the officers.
Zappala decided no charges were necessary. Cyril was later paid $5,000 by the family of the victim to write a report that was used in the civil trial. This pissed Zappala off and he launched an investigation into the mixing of government and personal business by Cyril. At the behest of Zappala, the feds took over and a FBI agent not too long ago took boxes of stuff from Cyril’s office, including records on the deaths of JonBenet, Elvis, and Kennedy.
In 2005, when Zappala suppressed Cyril’s opportunity to do inquests into several deaths involving law enforcement members, Cyril said this to the media:
“This is impudence, arrogance, gall of an unmitigated nature, hubris and unsurpassed chutzpah that absolutely defies explanation,” Wecht said. “Who does the district attorney think he is?”
I imagine that didn’t create an warm fuzzies between the two.
In 2006, Cyril was indicted on mucho counts of using his public office for private gain. He resigned. His attorney said at most, these are clerical errors and restitution could be paid easily.
Round one: Zappala.
Bruised, but not down, Cyril’s lawyer asks that all evidence be thrown out and the case dropped.
Why? Two reasons.
One: That FBI agent that went through his office isn’t exactly a very upstanding dude.
And most importantly two: It appears that Mr. Zappala himself recently renewed a no-bid contract with his former law firm. A law firm that still pays him. It would seem as though Mr. Zappala has used his public office for private gain.
[and the crowd goes “oooooooooooooooooooh.”]
Zappala initially responds with, “I’m not going to respond to personal attacks.” So when he’s accusing Cyril of using public office for private gain, it is a federal matter, but when Cyril accuses Zappala of using public office for private gain, it is a “personal attack.”
Heh. That’s funny. And look how flustered Zappala gets at the end of this video.
Round two: Cyril!
Can’t wait for round three, which will happen in May when the judge rules on the request.