PITTSBURGH — Captured on cell phone video and photos, Pittsburgh Police have charged prominent Pittsburgh architect Robert Pfaffmann and his longtime partner Lisa Marie Haabestad with ethnic intimidation.
Police paperwork states they allegedly repeatedly harassed a Russian man in their Shadyside neighborhood.
Investigators say the Shadyside couple targeted Russian native Vasily Potanin at his home since late February.
Police paperwork states they threw bags of rice with explicit messages condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as dog feces in his yard.
They also allegedly held up a sign saying “Leave Our Neighborhood” while shouting threatening messages about him being Russian.
“They assume that just because of my nationality I must be profiting from that. I’m Putin’s spy. I work for him. All this nonsense,” said Vasily Potanin, of Shadyside.
Potanin’s father is a Russian business oligarch who served as the first deputy prime minister in the 1990s.
Potanin says he believes he was targeted over his conservative beliefs and heritage.
He said he does not support what is happening in his native country.
He came to the United States nearly a decade ago and currently attends college at Carnegie Mellon University.
“You can be a patriot of your country but not love the government. I don’t think the government is doing anything other than pretty evil stuff at the moment,” said Potanin.
Channel 11 went to the Shadyside couple’s home for comment, less than a half mile away from Potanin, but no one answered the door.
“Honestly I think for them — the best thing that can happen is they can have the consequences legally for their actions and they should face them,” said Potanin.
Channel 11 also went to Pfaffmann’s architecture firm in downtown Pittsburgh.
He told reporter Mike Holden to leave immediately.
The couple is set to go before a judge for their preliminary hearing on May 4th.
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