Defense claims Hempfield robbery suspect wrongly identified because of race

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Rich Cholodofsky, Tribune-Review, Greensburg, Pa.
·2 min read
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Feb. 22—Police say Norman Jack confessed to the armed robbery of a Blairsville woman more than four years ago in a Hempfield shopping center parking lot.

But Jack maintains his innocence and his defense attorney claimed in court Monday that his client was identified by his accuser only because he is Black.

"This is a misidentification," Tim Dawson told jurors during opening statements in Jack's trial. "This is not the man who robbed her. She did not identify him until he was the only Black man in the room."

Jack, 30, of Scottdale, is on trial in Westmoreland County on charges of robbery, theft, simple assault, terroristic threats and a firearms offense in connection with an incident Nov. 30, 2016, at Greengate East Plaza. Police claim Jack drove up to a parked vehicle at the shopping center parking, pointed a gun at the woman as she sat in her vehicle waiting for a store to open, stole her wallet and purse and crashed into her car as he fled the scene.

Assistant District Attorney Adam Barr said Jack was arrested several days later in New Stanton, where police found a gun and heard his confession.

"She was robbed at gunpoint. It was a terrible day, a traumatic day," Barr said.

The prosecution claims Jack drove up beside the woman's car and asked to use her cell phone to call his wife. According to court records, police linked Jack to the robbery based on the call recorded on the cellphone as well as a physical description of him and his car.

The defense said Jack and his wife have an alibi for the time of the robbery, and that the woman's identification of him was based on a faulty description.

Dawson suggested that King was not positively identified by his accuser until she pointed him out at a preliminary hearing in 2017 where Jack was the only Black person in attendance.

The trial before Common Pleas Court Judge Meagan Bilik-DeFazio is expected to take about three days. Testimony is slated to begin Tuesday morning.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Rich at 724-830-6293, rcholodofsky@triblive.com or via Twitter .