PITTSBURGH (AP) - Prosecutors have opened an investigation into
the release of a prisoner from the county jail who later shot two
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala said his
investigation is focusing on whether there were bribes involved in
the release of Cecil Brookins.
News of Zappala's inquiry caught other investigating officials
off guard, including the county police and a committee headed by
former U.S. Attorney Tom Corbett, which has been asked to issue a
report within 45 days.
"Brookins is a mid- to high-level drug dealer," Zappala said.
"We want to make a determination to our own satisfaction as to
whether he was intentionally released, possibly by drug dealers
paying somebody off."
Zappala added that his office is also looking into the
possibility that someone at the jail made a mistake in releasing
Brookins and covered it up.
Brookins, 46, is charged with six counts of attempted homicide
and numerous other offenses, including drug and weapons
Police were serving an arrest warrant for drugs at Brookins'
house when he opened fire following a three-hour standoff, police
said. Two officers were shot.
Brookins was shot five times as police returned fire. Both
officers and Brookins survived their wounds.
It was later determined that Brookins should never have been
released, having served only 14 days of a 29- to 58-month sentence
for a confrontation with police while carrying an unlicensed gun
and wearing a bulletproof vest.
Defense attorney James Ecker said Wednesday he has not been
contacted by investigators about a possible bribe involving his
client and Zappala has offered no evidence a bribe was ever
County executive Jim Roddey, who appointed the Corbett
Committee, said the county police and the committee are the only
ones that should be investigating Brookins' release.
"If he has information that somebody bribed someone, that
information should be turned over to county police," said County
Executive Jim Roddey.
County Manager Bob Webb said the county police investigation
would be completed in three to four weeks and a separate
investigation would result in the duplication of interviews and
reviews of documents.
Webb also pointed out that Zappala is already a member of the
Zappala said his investigation should not be considered a turf
"I don't look at it that way," he said. "If that's the way they
want to handle it, as long as it gets done, it's fine with
Meanwhile, Tom Corbett met with city officials Wednesday.
Corbett said his investigation focuses on what happened
specifically in Brookins' release, and secondly, on the system as
"We're looking at just the whole policy and procedure within
the criminal justice system as to the intake and release of
prisoners between the county court and the county jail," he
Warden Calvin Lightfoot had said Brookins was released because
a county judge's order to move him to the state prison got to the
jail two days late - after another judge had ordered Brookins
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County Judge Lawrence O'Toole said his records indicate the
jail was notified of the transfer before Brookins' release.