Federal Lawsuit Alleges Police Brutality; Local DA Declines to Prosecute Officers

320px-Towanda_Main_Street.jpgA federal lawsuit claims that multiple Pennsylvania State Police officers physically and verbally assaulted a man, both during a traffic stop and while he was in police custody. Video from a police cruiser dashboard camera reportedly shows both verbal and physical abuse by troopers, and the man says that police continued to assault him for hours afterwards. The lawsuit claims various violations of constitutional rights and intentional torts against the state police department and certain individual officers.

Police pulled over 31 year-old Robert Leone, a resident of Vestal, New York, on March 8, 2010, on Route 6 in Bradford County, Pennsylvania. Police allege that Leone was involved in a hit and run, that he led them on a chase, and that he was acting “out of control.” Leone denies any involvement in a hit and run accident. Prosecutors later claimed he had high levels of the drug Adderall, a stimulant used to treat attention-deficit disorders, in his system at the time. Dashboard camera footage of the arrest reportedly shows state troopers beating Leone, and Leone says that officers moved him to an area out of the view of the camera to continue the beatings.

When an ambulance arrived, police on the scene allegedly refused to allow the EMS crew to take Leone to the hospital. A trooper with a broken hand, which the lawsuit claims resulted from repeated blows to Leone’s head, traveled in the ambulance instead. Police reportedly “hogtied” him and transported him to the hospital in the back of a police vehicle. He says police later took him to the Towanda State Police Barracks, where they held him for about nine hours. During that time, Leone alleges, officers beat him, used pepper spray on him, and shocked him with tazers. They transported him to the hospital a second time to treat wounds to his face and head, and Leone says he suffers complications to this day.

Leone was convicted in August 2010 for the hit and run, resisting arrest, fleeing or attempting to elude an officer, and simple assault. The state granted him parole in March 2012, but he reportedly remains in prison pending an agreement on where he would stay upon his release.

Leone filed suit in the Middle District of Pennsylvania on March 7, 2012 against the Borough of Towanda, Pennsylvania State Police Troop P, the commanding officer of the Towanda Station, and multiple state troopers, officers, and patrolmen. He alleges that the officers conducted an unreasonable search and seizure and that they violated his due process rights as a pretrial detainee in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He asserts claims for the intentional torts of assault and battery against the individual police officers, and he claims “concerted tortious conduct” against the station’s commanding officer and the state police’s commanding officer on the scene. He requests unspecified damages.

The district judge denied a motion by Towanda Borough to dismiss the suit in July 2012. The Bradford County District Attorney’s Office also announced in July that it does not intend to file charges against any of the officers involved in the incident. The DA stated that none of the evidence presented at Leone’s criminal trial merited an investigation of the officers’ conduct, and no new evidence has come to light since then that would change his mind.

At Lebowitz & Mzhen, we offer skilled legal representation for people in Maryland who have suffered personal injury because of the negligent or unlawful acts of others. To schedule a free and confidential consultation, contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949.

More Blog Posts:

Lawsuit Alleges Prison Nurse Denied Emergency Medical Care to Inmate, Maryland Accident Law Blog, August 7, 2012
Sheriff’s Deputy Not Liable in Maryland Stun Gun Death, Jury Says, Maryland Accident Law Blog, April 4, 2012
Family of Maryland Man Who Died in Police Custody Dismisses Suit Against Police, May Still Sue Hospital, Maryland Accident Law Blog, February 27, 2012
Photo credit: ‘Towanda Main Street’ by Nicholas (originally posted to Flickr as Main Street) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

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