PITTSBURGH - A Pennsylvania man who spent nearly 14 years in prison in a deadly 1993 fire before winning a new trial and having the charges against him dropped has filed a federal lawsuit against a prosecutor and two former police officers involved in his case.
Daniel Carnevale, 58, alleges malicious prosecution, fabrication of evidence and civil conspiracy on the part of a deputy Allegheny County district attorney and the former Pittsburgh homicide detectives who now work as investigators for the DA's office. The lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court alleges fabrication and withholding of evidence and accuses the defendants of "orchestrating the use of false testimony."
"Mr. Carnevale’s conviction was part of the disturbing resurrection of a tragic fire that occurred some 13 years prior, where there was no reliable evidence that the fire was caused by arson, let alone that it was intentionally set by Mr. Carnevale," the suit said.
Mike Manko, a spokesperson for the office, declined comment on the pending litigation, which he said was under review.
Carnevale has maintained his innocence since he was incarcerated in 2006, accused of setting a January 1993 fire at two apartment buildings that left three people dead. He won a new trial after prosecutors said some evidence had never been turned over to the defense, but before that trial prosecutors withdrew the charges in 2020.
The case stems from the January 1993 fire at the Columbia House and Regal Apartments in the Bloomfield neighborhood that killed Anita Emery, 31, Florence Lyczko, 63, and Chris Stahlman, 22. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said the blaze had been intentionally set using lacquer thinner from a five-gallon drum recovered at the scene.
No arrest was made until 13 years later, when two cold-case officers said a new witness had come forward. Carnevale was convicted of three counts of second-degree murder and sentenced to life.
The Pennsylvania Innocence Project said federal agents didn’t follow proper scientific procedures for determining whether the cause was arson. An investigator testified at trial that the fire had to be arson because a natural or accidental cause had been eliminated.