KHARI MOSLEY says he assumed this position during the ordeal at the hotel. He was cleared of disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace charges on July 15. (Photos by J.L. Martello)
by Christian Morrow, Courier Staff Writer
The narrative collectively pushed by Detroit prosecutors, police, media and the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel was: “Out-of-town couple has too much to drink, creates disturbance, assaults police in the process.”
“That sounds reasonable, to be honest,” said Khari Mosley who, with his wife, Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner, were that out-of-town couple in Detroit on March 6. “That’s not beyond the realm of understanding, but what happened was way more like the Twilight Zone.”
Mosley, who was found not guilty of misdemeanor disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace charges July 15, and Wagner met exclusively with the New Pittsburgh Courier editorial board to discuss their version of what happened and to combat the “drunken couple” storyline—which Wagner said has not been corrected nor retracted.
“There’s still a story out there that doesn’t represent what actually came out at trial. It’s the Westin’s incompetence. They racially profiled him (Mosley) and said he was a vagrant (though he was dressed in a high-end red Polo warmup suit). They filed a false police report. The police relied on that report and admitted at trial they failed to investigate,” she said. “It’s a train wreck for them because what came out at trial is now in full view.”
What is now in full view could also be used to exonerate Wagner, who faces a trial on felony assault charges on Nov. 12. Mosley said the entire incident stemmed from the Westin turning a simple customer service problem into “the crime of the century.”
Mosley, who is regional director of the Blue Green Alliance of the United Steelworkers, was ultimately found not guilty on all charges after a four-day trial that concluded with jurors deliberating just 40 minutes before rendering their verdict, July 15. But he still wanted to tell his side of the story to the general public, most of whom were not in the Detroit courtroom to hear, according to Mosley, what really happened.
The couple had driven from Pittsburgh to see hip-hop artist Nas perform with the Detroit Philharmonic Orchestra on March 5. They checked in at the Westin, which is Downtown Detroit, went to the show and returned to the hotel. By now, it’s the early morning hours of March 6. Wagner went to sleep, and Mosley went to the hotel bar to have a drink. Upon leaving the bar, he realized he didn’t have his hotel key. Mosley then went to the main desk of the Westin to get another one.
That’s when the clerk and hotel security started down the road to the Twilight Zone, according to Mosley. They wouldn’t give him a key because only Wagner’s name was on the register.
“I asked them to call the room—they didn’t,” Mosley recalled the story to the Courier on Aug. 9. “Can one of you escort me up there and knock on the door—no we can’t do that. Can you go knock and have her come down and get me—no we can’t. You mean I can’t wait here while you go get her? No. You’re not a registered guest here, and you have to leave or we’re calling the police.
“And that’s how it all began.”
Hotel security then called the Detroit police—claiming to be police themselves per the 911 recording—and said Mosley has started a disturbance in the bar and threatening staff and guests, and that they feared for their lives.
There is no video from the bar—why the Westin does not have the video is unknown, though Mosley and Wagner believe it was intentionally destroyed. But there is video of a security guard chest-bumping Mosley. There is no video of Mosley being violent, yet when the police arrived, the security guard accused Mosley of trying to hit him. From that point on, there is police bodycam video—and audio.
Despite being told Wagner was in bed asleep, when the police entered the hotel room, they searched the room for two minutes before walking to the bed to talk to Wagner, according to Mosley.
Then, Mosley is escorted back to the room, but by now, he’s agitated, telling the police and security he wants their names and information because he’s going to sue. As Wagner is trying to get Mosley to come into the room, one officer is still in the way.
“I told him to get the F out and the door closed,” said Mosley. “We think it’s over, but that’s when they claim they heard banging and crashing in the room.”
“And that’s the only time the audio goes out” from the bodycam video of Detroit police, Wagner said. “The judge even said, that’s the only time in over an hour of recording the audio drops out.”
That’s when the police come in to remove Mosley, put him in handcuffs, Wagner objects and begins shooting video on her phone. The Detroit police arrest Wagner for interfering and assault, and take her to jail.
Mosley managed to find a Detroit lawyer who could get Wagner out of jail, and after sticking around for one more day because they were told there’d be an arraignment for her—there wasn’t—they went home.
Two days later they sent notice to the Westin that they planned to sue—and to preserve “any and all video.” On March 19, they sent the same notice to the Detroit police. The next day, Wagner was charged with felony assault and Mosley, who was never officially arrested, was also charged.
Coincidence? Wagner and Mosley believe so. One day, the two Pittsburghers give notice they plan to sue. The next day, they are both charged by Wayne County (Detroit) prosecutors.
Mosley told the Courier that although it was unsettling to have charges pressed against him, it was easy to tell his side of the story because, “the story is the story,” he said. There was no need to fabricate anything—Mosley knew that his story was the correct story. Mosley did not accept any plea deals—he went to trial.
At the trial, the only witnesses called to testify were Detroit police and hotel security guards. The security guards admitted that Mosley never threatened anyone on the night in question. The Detroit police admitted they did not see Mosley break any laws. As for the “banging and crashing” that was missing from the police audio recording, and was the pretext for the police re-entering the room and eventually arresting Wagner, it appears to have been pretext only.
“Everyone had a different description of what they heard. One said he thought it was me putting my hands on her,” said Mosley. “But at trial, they were asked if they checked on her wellness—no. While you were in the room when Mr. Mosley was packing, did you observe anything broken or damaged—no. Did housekeeping later report anything broken or damaged—no. Were they ever sent a bill for damages—no.”
The six-member jury had five African Americans. Mosley told the Courier that most of them had expressions on their faces that showed there was no way they believed Mosley committed any crimes.
“Mr. Mosley, a jury of your peers have found you ‘not guilty’ of all of your charges. This case is dismissed, thank you very much, sir,” said 36th District Court Judge Kenneth King inside the courtroom.
“Thank you, your honor,” Mosley replied.
And with that, Mosley, dressed in a black suit, white shirt and navy blue bow tie, walked out of the Detroit courtroom with his wife, Wagner, and traveled back to Pittsburgh.
They probably won’t be visiting the city of Detroit anytime soon.
“What the trial showed us was that the entire premise of their entire narrative was false from the beginning,” Mosley told the Courier. “From the idea of, there being some sort of disturbance in the bar. It came out in the facts that the only thing that happened in the bar was I ordered one glass of wine, and was able to charge that glass of wine to the room.”
Mosley can’t believe that he could charge a glass of wine to the hotel room that he and Wagner stayed in, but then wasn’t believed by hotel staff that he was a guest at the hotel when he later asked for another room key.
“The police acknowledged on the stand that they erroneously believed what the Westin security was telling them without any effort to investigate,” Wagner told the Courier.
Wagner, seated next to her husband, Mosley, at the Courier offices, then discussed how she felt the Detroit News, one of the city’s two major daily publications, “has mischaracterized everything. What they’ve tried to claim from these days in the courtroom was that the prosecution just didn’t meet their burden, when in fact, what I would describe, is more of this pejorative farce. It was a train wreck, the entire time, and I never thought I’d see a system that would make me think our criminal justice system here (in Pittsburgh) is good.”
“It (Detroit) was that bad.”
(Courier Staff Writer Rob Taylor Jr. contributed to this story.)