A jailhouse informant whose information was used to charge Cheron Shelton and Robert Thomas in the 2016 Wilkinsburg mass shooting that killed five people and an unborn baby said he was pressured by investigators to fabricate information.
Until recently, we only knew this man as witness No. 1.
11 investigates found out his real name is Kendall Mikell, and he has his own story to tell about investigators in Allegheny County.
"They will do anything and say anything for a conviction. It puts people’s lives in jeopardy and ruins lives,” Mikell said.
Mikell is mentioned repeatedly in the criminal complaint that led to homicide charges filed against Cheron Shelton and Robert Thomas in June 2016.
Mikell was a jailhouse informant, gathering information and connecting both suspects to the Wilkinsburg barbecue shooting that killed five people and an unborn child.
"They arranged for me to go straight to the hole where Shelton was at and they arranged for me to be right next to him,” Mikell said.
During those conversations, Mikell told 11 Investigates Shelton repeatedly denied his involvement in the shooting. But he claims detectives and assistant District Attorney Lisa Pelligrini wanted him to tell a different story that would implicate Shelton.
"She asked me, ‘What do you want for this case? I've got unlimited funds. I have county money, state money, federal money. I've got unlimited resources. Just tell me whatever you want for me to get what I need, for you to give good testimony.’" Mikell said.
Channel 11’s Aaron Martin: Did you feel like they were pressuring you to lie?
"Feel like it? I know they were pressuring me to lie. They’re threatening me, telling me if I don’t they’ll lock me up for seven years for probation violation,” Mikell said.
Shelton's attorney Randall McKinney filed a motion last week asking for a mistrial due to Mikell's allegations, which was denied by the judge.
When brought up in open court, Assistant District Attorney Kevin Chernosky called the allegations “an absolute fabrication on the part of this witness.”
Despite nearly three full pages of details from Mikell in the criminal complaint, he was never called to testify.But he told 11 Investigates that didn't stop the payments.
"I've got $1,000 before. I was placed in hotels and given money. I didn't have to pay for no groceries. They would give me $300 every couple of weeks for groceries,” Mikell said.
Mikell said that money came from county police detectives and the ATF for information on several cases, Including the Wilkinsburg shooting.
"There was some that I signed for and some that I didn't, but it was multiple payments. For the last five years I've been living off of them."
Channel 11′s Aaron Martin: So you’ve been living off of the County Police, the County DA, ATF over the last five years?
"Since I've been on the streets,” Miklell said.
Allegheny County Police and the ATF declined to comment due to the gag order.
Mikell knows some people won’t believe him since he’s been jailed several times, including six-and-a-half years in prison for aggravated assault.
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But he says this is about setting the record straight.
"This is the time when people will listen and if I can come with the truth and facts behind it, it’s time,” Mikell said.
The district attorney’s office has denied allegations of pressuring the witness to lie about Cheron Shelton. Below is information from a motion filed in court:
"The Commonwealth believes and therefore avers that this filing was a desperate attempt on behalf of the defense to influence a jury that has not been sequestered during deliberations in this matter.
In certain cases devoid of participation of witnesses and the assistance of the public, the Commonwealth must often rely on the use of informants. In those instances, reasonable steps are taken in advance of the decision to use an informant to ensure the veracity of the information that they claim to possess. The Commonwealth denies generally, and in this specific instance, that funds are paid directly for information. Instead, the Commonwealth provides financial assistance consistent with the need to protect the witness from the relative danger in which they are placing themselves by testifying. The suggestion that the Commonwealth did anything to the contrary is deliberate and offensive.
Since August 8, 2018 the continued litigation and/or discussion of an individual that was not called by the Commonwealth at trial or any other proceeding has served as a disingenuous platform for misinformation on the part of the defense.”
Below is the Second Motion for Extraordinary Relief and to Disqualify the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office. The motion is from Friday and was unsealed Wednesday morning.
Below is the Allegheny County DA’s motion in response to the unsealed defense motion claiming a witness was pushed to fabricate information on Shelton.
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