Frazer police did not investigate a Taiwanese-American businessman because of his race but because of contraband that officers saw in his store, the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office argued in a court filing that rebutted the businessman’s earlier claims of racial discrimination.
Assistant District Attorney Bjorn Dakin argued in a motion filed Wednesday in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court that police acted appropriately when they investigated businessman Tommy Wang, 42, of Highland Park, for selling unlicensed goods.
Mr. Wang, who is facing criminal charges for allegedly selling 1,700 items with unlicensed trademarks at his store in the Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills, claimed in an earlier court filing that police investigated him only because he is Asian, after an officer saw fish tanks in his store. His attorney, Casey White, cited a search warrant that says Frazer police Officer Lee Bartolicius knew “it is common for persons engaged in illegal activity specifically of Asian descent to buy, sell, trade and breed in exotic, protected and endangered fish.”
Mr. Dakin said in his response that the investigation was not based on race, but rather on Officer Bartolicius’ observations of unlicensed merchandise in the shop’s storefront. The officer had been trained to recognize such merchandise, Mr. Dakin wrote in the response to Mr. White’s motion. Mr. White had asked Common Pleas Judge Randal B. Todd to dismiss the case.
On Thursday, Mr. White said he hopes the case will still be dismissed.
“I obviously disagree with the [district attorney’s] position in their response as a whole,” Mr. White said. “It appears this will likely have to be argued in front of Judge Todd for him to make a determination as to whether or not there were any discriminatory practices done during the investigation.”
A non-jury trial is scheduled for April 10.