Weird Pittsburgh: Napping lawyers, flipping the bird, and karma, as it always has been, is a bitch | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Weird Pittsburgh: Napping lawyers, flipping the bird, and karma, as it always has been, is a bitch

“Giving someone the finger should not constitute a crime.”

A Pleasant Hills man accused of making millions in a mortgage-fraud scheme might get a new trial because his lawyer was caught napping in court. Prosecutors say James Nassida, former owner of Century III Home Equity, used fake property appraisals and inflated borrower incomes and assets to fool lenders into making millions of dollars in fraudulent loans. He split his time between a $1.3 million home and a Seven Springs vacation property, and drove an Aston Martin. But most other details presented in the three-week trial were much less sexy; prosecutors and witnesses gave lengthy explanations of banking procedures. U.S. District Judge Donetta Ambrose reportedly caught Nassida’s attorney, Stan Levenson, dozing off during the dull affair. Ambrose polled jurors and 11 out of 12 said they also spotted Levenson sleeping. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Ambrose will likely appoint a new lawyer for Nassida, who may argue for a retrial or plea deal on the basis of insufficient assistance of counsel. “I’m embarrassed about it,” said Levenson, a veteran defense attorney, “and it shouldn’t have happened.” He added that cold medicine had made him drowsy.

For an unknown reason, Christie Joyelle Hall faked a robbery at her Cambria County home, hiding valuables she reported stolen in a trash bag as police investigated her plundered-looking place, according to an arrest report. Hall allegedly told an officer that a handgun, a PlayStation, $2,000 in cash and $15,000 worth of her grandmother’s jewelry had been taken from her Westmont home. “The residence appeared to have been ransacked,” police Capt. George Musulin told the Tribune-Democrat of Johnstown. But police soon saw holes in Hall’s story, wondering how the alleged robber avoided conflict with her 140-pound British mastiff and accessed her second-floor residence without leaving a ladder mark. Hall reportedly admitted to faking the robbery, hiding the items in a white trash bag outside. That’s when karma took over. Her boyfriend, apparently not in on the scheme, set the bag out on the street for trash pickup. The local trash-hauling service has no way of retrieving the valuables. “They said it had already been dumped at the landfill,” Musulin said. “It’s probably covered up with hundreds of tons of garbage. It’s a bizarre situation.”

While enforcing an eviction, the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office discovered more than 180 animals in a Pittsburgh home. Living in the Brookline house were 150 birds, 14 ferrets, 10 cats, seven dogs, two geckos, one turtle, one guinea pig and one bearded dragon, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Forty-five-year-old Barbara Yogmas, who lived with her mother and 12-year-old son, apparently used Craigslist to gather pets others were giving up, creating a home condition an officer called “beyond deplorable” and leading to animal-cruelty and child-endangerment charges. The Western Pennsylvania Humane Society and Animal Rescue League took in the small zoo’s worth of creatures. 

A Pennsylvania court has upheld your First Amendment right to give the finger. When Jason Roy Waugaman of Pittsburgh returned their children to his ex-wife’s apartment in 2014, he allegedly accelerated his truck to drive within a “yardstick” of hitting her, reports, and flipped the bird as he drove off. Police charged Waugaman with reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct. In Common Pleas Court, he was found not guilty of the first charge but was convicted on the second. In Superior Court, he was cleared on appeal by Senior Justice Eugene B. Strassburger, who wrote: “Unless the First Amendment was repealed when I was not looking, giving someone the finger should not constitute a crime.” 

Police in Lebanon say that a hip-hop artist whose songs include “Sell Drugz” did in fact sell drugs. Twenty-nine-year-old Michael Persaud, a.k.a. rapper Montana Millz, sold 70 bags of heroin to an undercover officer over the span of an investigation, police told the Associated Press. Now some poor rookie lawyer in the Lebanon County district attorney’s office will have to download and decipher his amateur gangster-rap tracks (such as “Armed and Dangerous” and “Groupie Hoes”) to create an incriminating portrait for a jury. 

An 81-year-old man reported the theft of an “antique sausage stuffer” from his home in Milford Township, Juniata County, according to The man apparently does not use the stuffer often; he could tell police only that it was taken some time since Jan. 1.

Hands off Rafah protest in East Liberty
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Hands off Rafah protest in East Liberty

By Mars Johnson