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December 10, 2013

Attorney gets ARD for letting client use cellphone

BEDFORD — A Pittsburgh-area attorney who has defendants in Cambria and other counties in the region is finding himself on the other side of the law.

Thomas Crawford, 71, of Wilkinsburg, was placed on the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program in Bedford County and fined $500 after being charged with introducing contraband to a correctional facility.

ARD is for six months. If he successfully complies with the requirements, his record will be cleared. The charge will not impact on his ability to practice law, Crawford said.

The charge stemmed from an incident in the summer when he allowed a prison inmate he was representing to use his cellphone, Bedford County District Attorney William Higgins said Tuesday.

Crawford was representing a client at a hearing in Bedford County Central Court in Everett when he permitted the defendant to use his phone in the hopes of convincing the defendant’s mother to post bail.

Higgins said the incident was witnessed by sheriff’s deputies and it took place in the secured holding cell at the court building.

“There is a specific section in the criminal code regarding use of cellphones,” Higgins said. “He could have told the guards that his client needed to make a phone call and the defendant would have been taken to a landline.”

Crawford said he did not break any law because the cellphone was not used within the prison.

“Allowing an inmate to use my cellphone, frankly, it isn’t illegal. I took the ARD because it was a pain in the rear to go through a trial,” he said.

Crawford added that he took the deal at the urging of his wife and law partner, Barbara Weiss.

He has been practicing law since 1967 and is a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Department of Justice.


Kathy Mellott cover Bedford County for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at

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