Pittsburgh man must repay $234K, serve 21 years probation for stealing from youth baseball league

April 12, 2018 GMT

A judge on Monday sentenced the former director of the 14th Ward youth baseball association in Pittsburgh to more than two decades of probation for stealing thousands of dollars and ordered him to pay more than $200,000 in restitution.

But Jeffrey Rosenthal of Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood and his attorney, Chris Rand Eyster, plan to fight not only the sentence, but the conviction as well.

“We’re relieved that the court found it appropriate to impose a probation sentence, however there are going to be a number of issues that are going to be raised in post-sentencing motions that will go toward getting Mr. Rosenthal a new trial,” Eyester said.

Chief among those will be a claim of ineffective counsel: Rosenthal’s first defense attorney, Kevin Abramovitz, was arrested Feb. 2 on accusations he left a friend to die of an opioid overdose and ditched the man’s body in a Squirrel Hill alley.

That incident allegedly occurred June 24, though Abramovitz was not arrested for seven more months. Rosenthal’s trial took place in early October. He was found guilty of theft-related charges and forgery following a jury trial Oct. 5.

Jurors convicted him of stealing $162,000 from 14th Ward and $85,000 from the Taylor Allderdice Alumni Association.

“It’s been a devastating process from day one,” Rosenthal said Monday following sentencing. “Finding out about my attorney and what was happening in his life, (it) made a lot of sense why things went certain ways in my initial trial.”

Eyester tried to introduce his own forensic accounting evidence during sentencing, but Common Pleas Judge Kevin Sasinoski stopped him, saying such matters should be raised as post-sentencing motions.

“Central to a proper defense for Mr. Rosenthal was a presentation of forensic evidence showing that he didn’t steal anything,” Eyester said. “That was lacking in this case.”

An investigation began in 2015 when Taylor Allderdice High School’s parent-teacher organization prepared to take over the alumni association. The new treasurer noticed checks written from the alumni association to the 14th Ward Baseball Association and from the baseball association to Rosenthal, investigators said.

Rosenthal wrote 745 checks to himself totaling $288,000 between September 2009 and October 2015, according to an affidavit. When interviewed by investigators, he claimed the money was used to fund trophies, T-shirts, equipment and a new roof for the 14th Ward’s concession stand, authorities said. He said he wrote the check to reimburse himself for purchases he made for the league, according to a criminal complaint.

Eyester said Rosenthal was guilty of poor accounting.

Character witnesses for Rosenthal called him an upstanding pillar of the community during Monday’s sentencing hearing. All said they do not believe Rosenthal stole from the organization, testifying that he often let children who could not afford registration play anyway.

David Green, a friend of Rosenthal’s since the 1960s, said Rosenthal often paid for necessities – food for the concession stand, pay for umpires and a new roof for the concession stand – out of his own pocket and reimbursed himself later.

“I know he didn’t do this,” Green said. “It’s in my heart. It’s in my soul.”

Sasinoski sentenced Rosenthal to 21 years of probation and ordered him to pay $234,605 in restitution during that time, though that number is not set in stone. Should restitution be paid sooner, the judge said, probation can be terminated sooner.

Rosenthal said he is pleased that he will serve no jail time, but both he and Eyester said they plan to fight not only the sentence, but the conviction as well.

“I’m a free man right now,” he said. “We can challenge everything we need to challenge at this point.”

Gregory Allen, a coach and parent of two sons in the league, took over as president after the scandal. He declined comment on behalf of 14th Ward on Monday.

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8519, mguza@tribweb.com or via Twitter @meganguzaTrib.