Mar. 4-A Westmoreland County judge is once again considering whether to set bail for a Clairton man who has been in jail nearly four years awaiting trial.
Lindsey R. Wright, 41, was arrested in May 2017 on corrupt organization, conspiracy and drug offenses. Investigators have deemed him an alleged "major" drug supplier in the area.
His bail originally was set at $1 million and later denied after a preliminary hearing during which a co-defendant and witness testified against him. Assistant District Attorney James Lazar argued Thursday that, if released, Wright potentially could be dangerous to the witness who cooperated with police.
"Our concern here is the safety of the community and the safety of our witness," he said.
Defense attorney Michael DeMatt said Wright could be placed on house arrest. Wright has hypertension and is considered obese, which puts him at a greater risk if he would contract the coronavirus inside the jail, DeMatt said.
"This is not a homicide case ... and he has been sitting in the Westmoreland County Prison for nearing four years now," he said.
Police contend Wright was one of three "major" suppliers arrested in May 2017 for directing large quantities of heroin to a man who is accused of distributing it to six low-level dealers in the county. A co-defendant testified during Wright's June 2017 preliminary hearing that he purchased between 100 and 200 bricks of heroin monthly from Wright and brought it into Westmoreland County for sale. The pair started working together in mid-2016, according to testimony.
Judge Timothy Krieger said he would sign an order allowing the defense to hire a private investigator to find some of the witnesses in the case to testify in a pretrial matter. The case has been stalled by numerous pretrial filings, according to online court records.
Lazar expressed concern that the witness who testified at the preliminary hearing could be in danger if Wright is released based on threatening messages Wright sent to him prior to his arrest.
"If the court releases this defendant, a person is going to die," he said.
Wright told Krieger that he is missing out on the lives of his children and he promised a job would await him, if he was released.
"I pray that you give me this opportunity to show I deserve this chance," he said.
Krieger planned to review some of the evidence in the case before making a decision. He previously denied a similar request in 2018. On Thursday, he said he is concerned about the safety of the community and witness.
"I think I owe you the re-review of this," Krieger said.
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .