Last year, Pittsburgh police officers Kaelen O’Connor and Robert Kramer were fired over a road rage incident. It was alleged that Kramer, while off-duty, pulled a gun on a man after a traffic dispute and that O'Connor purposely left information out of his report.
However, charges of obstructing justice and hindering apprehension are still pending against O'Connor. And his attorney, William Diffenderfer, is claiming that police are withholding bodycam video that may exonerate him.
Police have told him the video was recorded over, so the clip he is looking for does not exist. Diffenderfer believes they are lying to keep from having to rehire his client.
The video is from the bodycam of a third officer who had an unrelated interaction with Jesse Smith, the same man who had accused Kramer of pointing a gun at him.
In that incident, Smith threatened to report Pittsburgh police officer James Votash “and get him fired, just like he did Officer Kramer and Officer O’Connor," according to Diffenderfer.
The attorney has requested a hearing before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Mark V. Tranquilli to figure out what happened to the video "under oath," according to the motion that was filed.
Diffenderfer believes that if the video truly is recorded over, that it was done intentionally. It is not clear how the video could help his client considering it was from an unrelated incident, even if it did involve the same man.
“I find it extremely suspicious that it is missing, but they might have a very good explanation for it,” he said. “On the other hand, I still think I might get it. If they’re claiming that it’s not here, I want to know how that happened.”
Votash stated that he recorded the conversation and testified about his interaction with Smith in May stating that he followed department procedure filing it and showing his supervisors but no record of it could be found.
“I find it disturbing and outrageous that the video is missing, especially when it’s a critical component to these officers’ cases,” said Robert Swartzwelder, president of Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge 1.
Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge 1, Robert Swartzwelder, said since Kramer was acquitted, he plans to seek not only reinstatement for Kramer but with full back pay and benefits and would do the same for O’Connor if his case is dismissed.
The Pittsburgh Public Safety Department has declined to comment on this.