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By Jonathan D. Silver – September 30, 2015
A prosecutor Wednesday claimed that Pittsburgh’s suspended postmaster engaged in a “systemic manipulation of his employees” when he allegedly intimidated and threatened subordinates last year in an effort to dissuade them from cooperating with federal investigators who were looking into his activities.
“He was using his position as the biggest boss in the city and held it over their heads,” Assistant District Attorney Brian Catanzarite said of Daniel P. Davis, who was held for trial on numerous charges after a preliminary hearing in City Court. “This defendant threatened them one way or the other.”
The Allegheny County District Attorney’s office charged Mr. Davis, 50, of Canonsburg in September with obstructing administration of law or other government function and four counts each of intimidation of witnesses or victims, criminal coercion and official oppression.
Four U.S. Postal Service supervisors — Donna Clay, Dwayne Mayo-James, Joshua Francis and Mavin Parker — testified against Mr. Davis. All four claimed that they witnessed Mr. Davis opening packages — in some cases containing drugs. And all four testified that Mr. Davis either threatened or intimidated them.
“He told me, ‘I’m done. My postal career is over,’ ” Mr. Francis said. “He was the biggest boss in the city. He could ruin my career in a second.”
As well, a special agent with the Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General, D. Sean Baer, testified that he investigated allegations that the postmaster broke federal law by opening mail illegally without permission. Agent Baer said Mr. Davis did not have permission to open mail, it was not part of his job, and he was not working in any undercover capacity with a law enforcement agency. No federal charges have been filed against Mr. Davis, and the U.S. Attorney’s office declined to comment.
[maxgallery id=”41331″]Mr. Davis’ attorney, Joseph J. Chester, called the prosecution’s case a “gigantic puzzle” and told District Judge James Motznik that without his client being charged with opening mail, there was no basis for charging him with anything else. Mr. Catanzarite disagreed.
Mr. Chester also argued that none of the employees who testified against Mr. Davis were harmed by anything his client said or did. In a sometimes rambling attempt to have the charges against Mr. Davis dropped, Mr. Chester said the prosecution had advanced an “implausible” argument. He also suggested that the witnesses were disgruntled.
“I don’t want to show my hand,” Mr. Chester told District Judge Motznik at one point during testimony, “but this is nothing but a Byzantine employment law case fluffed up with alleged criminality.”
Mr. Chester also said that his client had been opening packages not only throughout last summer in Pittsburgh but during his tenure at a previous post in Toledo without any criminal repercussions, adding that he was puzzled about why Mr. Davis was suddenly charged.
Mr. Davis was suspended with pay from his $105,000 job when the DA’s office filed its charges, but he has not been allowed to perform his postmaster duties since January, Mr. Chester said.