Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner has reached a plea deal with Michigan prosecutors, resolving a nearly year-long court case stemming from an altercation with police at a Detroit hotel last year. Wagner pleaded no-contest to a misdemeanor offense Thursday morning, while authorities dropped a felony offense of resisting police. But a dispute over the terms of Wagner’s sentence suggests that, despite the settlement, the dust has yet to settle.
The incident took place last spring, after Wagner and her husband, Khari Mosley, returned from dinner and a concert. Mosley remained in a hotel bar after Wagner went up to their room, and later exchanged words with Westin Book Cadillac Hotel staff who would not give him access to the room, which was registered under Wagner’s name. Police were called and brought Mosely to the room. They accused Wagner of confronting them and accosting an officer at the elevator when police tried to remove Mosley.
Wagner and Mosley dispute that account, and in a pair of trials last year, jurors dismissed all but the felony charge against Wagner. Prosecutors had signaled a willingness to try that case again until Thursday’s no-contest plea, which does not admit wrongdoing but which courts treat as a guilty plea.
There were, however, dueling press statements from the prosecution and defense about what the settlement consisted of.
Wagner “was sentenced today to six months non-reporting probation and must pay $600.00 in court costs and $53.00 to the Crime Victim’s Fund,” said a statement by prosecutors announcing the deal. "[W]hen Ms. Wagner completes the probation the court can dismiss the case.”
Shortly afterward, Wagner released a statement saying that he case was already closed, without any probation. “Judge Thomas ruled for the case to be fully dismissed, upon Wagner paying for court fees and costs, which she did immediately following the 9 a.m. hearing,” said the statement. That prompted each side to accuse the other of misconstruing the terms of the settlement.
In fact, a probation order signed by Wayne County Judge Regina Thomas says Wagner faces six months of non-reporting probation – but also that “probation can be closed upon payment of fines and costs.” Wagner paid a total of $778.00 to the county clerk this morning, meaning she has fulfilled the only requirement placed upon her. But while a clerk in Judge Thomas’ office confirmed that while Wagner is now eligible to seek the end of her probation period, “It is not automatic, and it must be agreed upon” by the judge and prosecutors.
Maria Miller, a spokesperson for the Wayne County prosecutor's office, said that prosecutors wanted to ensure that Wagner committed no further offenses. "In the future if the defense files for a release from probation, we'll address that in court," she said.
Wagner’s attorney, Charles Longstreet, did not return calls Thursday afternoon. But Wagner says she was "perplexed" and "very confused by the nottion that here was not finality today. Because that's what was communicated to me in the courtroom — that upon payment of fines and costs, this would be dismissed, and the formality of filing the paperwork was all that was needed."
Wagner said her attorney would seek clarification from the court on Friday.
In any event, Wagner’s probation only requires her to avoid further legal problems for the next half-year.
In her statement, Wagner expressed relief at the end of the criminal proceeding, while also renewing a threat to sue the Westin hotel chain.
Wagner and her husband “are pleased to end a chapter that has been very difficult on us and our children,” the statement said. “We also look forward to seeking justice civilly in this matter, as we had always intended, but for now will focus on our family."