County Controller, Husband Charged After Altercation With Police

Mar 20, 2019

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner and her husband, Khari Mosley, are being charged as a result of an encounter with Detroit police earlier this month, the Wayne County Prosecutor's office said Wednesday.

Wagner has been charged with two felony counts of resisting and obstructing the police, and a misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct. Mosley faces two misdemeanor charges, disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace. 

In a statement, Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy says the altercation took place at the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel shortly ater midnight on March 6, when Mosley was "irate that hotel personnel would not allow him up to the room which was registered only in his wife's name." Hotel staff called police, who found Mosley "gesturing and speaking loudly in a confrontational manner."

The statement says police brought Mosley up to the room, confirmed he and Wagner were married, and began to leave.  But then "they heard a loud noise and shouting inside the room" which "caused them to return." At that point, hotel staff decided Mosely had to leave, and Mosley was handcuffed and led to an elevator, the door to which Wagner blocked.

"The officer ... asked Ms. Wagner to move several times and she continued to block the elevator door," the statement says. "She grabbed and pushed the officer and he used his arm to move her during the assault, and she fell to the floor."  

Worthy hailed police for having "used remarkable restraint while dealing with the combined actions" of Wagner and Mosley.

The account echoes a media narrative based on police body-cam video, though the video has not been made publicly available.

Wagner was not immediately available for comment on the charges. 

Previously, however, Wagner and Mosley have hotly contested the police version of events. 

By all accounts, the encounter began with a romantic getaway to see hip-hop artist Nas – a favorite of the couple -- perform with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. 

In an interview with 90.5 WESA on March 9th, Wagner and Mosley said that shortly after returning to the hotel, Wagner went up to the room, while Mosley said he went to the hotel bar to have a drink. It was when he tried to use the elevator – which required a room key for access – that he realized he didn’t have his room key.

“I go to the front desk to request a room key, and that’s when the ordeal begins,” he said.

Hotel staff said they called the room and got no answer – Wagner said she was deeply asleep by that point -- and refused to issue a key since the room was registered to another last name.

“I said, ‘What can I do, can I sit here and see if she picks up the phone?’” Mosley said. “They said, 'No, your only recourse is to go to another hotel.' … I said, ‘I’m not leaving the hotel,’ and they say, ‘Well, in that case, we’re going to call the police.’ And I say, ‘Please do, because when the police come we’ll be able to work things out.’”

‘We’re Going to Have to Escort Your Husband Out’

It didn’t play out that way. In a press conference earlier this month, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said police responded to “a report of a disorderly person … creating a disturbance.” Mosley, he said, used profanity with officers, who he said used “tremendous restraint” and “escorted the gentleman up to the room.”

In a marked departure from Wagner and Mosley’s account, Craig said officers made not one but two visits to the room. During the first, he said, “The officers were concerned that there was something wrong in the room that he was supposed to be in.” After they left, they returned once “hotel security made a decision based on some loud banging noise, that [Mosley] could not stay at the hotel. So the officers returned to the room, in a very respectful way, advising we’re going to have to escort your husband out.”

Craig repeatedly said that Wagner and Mosley were intoxicated, though police did not conduct a Breathalyzer or other test to verify that.

Wagner acknowledged to 90.5 WESA that she and Mosley had “several glasses of wine over the course of about six hours" as part of the date. "I wouldn’t have driven, but I was perfectly able to conduct myself in a perfectly normal fashion.” (They traveled using a ride-hailing service.)

“I would characterize [the amount of liquor consumed] as absolutely normal and perfectly legal for a couple that is celebrating,” she said.

At the press conference, Craig said Wagner pushed one of the officers about a half-dozen times, though "not very aggressively," during the encounter, and that  Mosley was “still quite agitated” as they led him to the elevator in handcuffs. Wagner followed police, demanding to know where they were taking Mosley. When they reached the elevator, “The wife blocks the door,” Craig said. “She continues to stay there, at some point she puts her hand on the officer and the officer takes the wife to the ground.”

‘They’re Bugging Out!’

Mosley and Wagner stridently deny much of that account: Wagner said she might have “brushed up” against an officer while “trying to see my husband,” but not the shoving that Craig described.

Mosley said he had no recollection of having being disruptive in the lobby, and that from the moment they arrived, police were “very aggressive. … I backed up and put my hands up and said ‘hands up, don’t shoot, I’m not a threat.’ Which I’m sure may have created some kind of scene, but I’m not going to get charged with assault.”

He said he agreed to let police handcuff him in exchange for taking him to the hotel room, so he could tell her he’d be staying somewhere else. “If this is what I need to do for my wife to know what’s going on, go ahead and do it,” he says he told them.

They also reject the claim that police made two visits to the room.

“That’s all completely false. And you can look to multiple things that demonstrate that,” Wagner said.

She cites her own 3-minute long cell phone video, which she shot during the encounter. From it, she said, “You can see very genuinely … that I have no idea what was going on. If what they’re suggesting happened, then Khari and I should both get an Academy Award.”

Wagner’s footage begins with her in the hotel room, clad in pajamas and asking a Detroit police officer and a hotel security employee at the door “what the premise is. My husband -- you just brought him to me.”

“If the noise disturbance is over, you’re more than welcome to stay,” the security official says. “If you do not comply, we’re going to have to remove you based on the noise.”

“I’m here, I’m quiet, as is my husband,” Wagner said.

“You were not when I just walked up.” Mosley, he said, had “been a disturbance for the past hour.”

“In which way?” Wagner asks.

“It doesn’t matter. The police are here for a reason.”

Moments later, police lead Mosley down the hall.

“Where is he going?” Wagner asks.

“None of your business,” an officer says. “He’ll call and let you know.”

Wagner follows as Mosley discusses the matter with police. Details of the altercation at the elevator are difficult to discern from her video, though as Wagner falls to the ground, Mosley can be heard warning, “Chelsa, they’re bugging out! Chill!”

Wagner was cuffed and taken to jail. Days later, she still had bruising on her arms which she said were the result of the altercation.

“These are not marks of somebody that was treated professionally,” she said. “It’s mind-blowing what’s going on here.”

Wagner says she followed police out of the room because she was worried “if my husband could be arrested, he could be shot, any number of things could happen from there.”

“Seeing her hauled away was mind-blowing," said Mosley. "And then as if my mind wasn’t blown enough, they take the cuffs off of me and say, ‘Now you can go pack up your room and go on your way.’ They told me I had 10 minutes to pack up the room or they would call the police again.”

‘Really, Really Scary Scenarios’

Wagner said the hotel could have taken a number of steps to verify that Mosley belonged in the hotel room, including asking him for the phone number it was registered under or comparing the home address on his license to hers. But instead, she said, “There’s that propensity if you make a bad decision, many people just kind of dig deeper. And I think that’s what you saw.”

Wagner herself was taken to a detention facility wearing pajamas and socks: “No shoes, no bra.” She spent time in a group cell and then was removed to a cell of her own after she was accosted by another inmate.

She said the cell “was beyond freezing. I had just my socks on and my pajamas. I was taken the toilet paper as a buffer from the concrete floor.”

She was eventually given a jumpsuit to wear, and was released the following afternoon. She and Mosley left the next day – after spending a night in a different hotel.

They’d left their car at the Westin. Mosley said he went back the morning after Wagner was detained, to pick up the car from “the same front desk I went to the night before.” He reclaimed the car without incident.

Well before Wednesday's charges were filed, Wagner told 90.5 WESA that she had “reviewed some really, really scary scenarios with my attorney. Certain charges could have jail time. There’s so much that I don’t know because I have not been given any information yet. I was taken to jail, I was bruised and thrown to the floor, and I still have no idea what happened.”

Wagner also said she may be filing a lawsuit of her own: She said an attorney had sent a “litigation hold” letter, which instructs a party that could be sued not to destroy evidence related to the matter.

For his part, Mosley says he has wondered whether he should have just gone to the Holiday Inn right from the start. 

But “I teach my sons to not let people take advantage of them, and to assert their rights. …. For all of the injustices and indignities that my ancestors have dealt with, my generation has an obligation to no longer accept second-class treatment. And that’s what I would have been doing if I would have walked down to the Holiday Inn.”