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State police promote sergeant after lawsuits

Six weeks after spending $675,000 to settle lawsuits claiming he smeared whistle-blowers and unlawfully peeked at telephone records, the Pennsylvania State Police promoted Sgt. Keith Jones to lieutenant.

Jones, chief of the state police's Internal Affairs Division in Pittsburgh, will transfer to the Washington barracks, according to an internal announcement obtained by the Tribune-Review.

In an August letter to police, Dauphin County First Assistant District Attorney Francis Chardo wrote that he would not prosecute Jones for obtaining a 2009 search warrant dogged by "serious" and "intentional" omissions of facts, pending the outcome of an internal probe.

Chardo told the Trib that the state police recently cleared Jones, who used the warrant to track the personal phone calls of Lt. Jeffrey Shaw, his boss at internal affairs.

"I don't think that he had any improper motive,"said Chardo, who had no problem with the promotion. "In fact, the investigation found that he begged not to be given the assignment. Yes, it was a bad search warrant. The probable-cause affidavit omitted important facts, but it wasn't obtained for the purposes of a criminal intent."

Messages seeking comment went unreturned Thursday from Jones, state police officials, Gov. Tom Corbett's staff and Westmoreland County District Attorney John W. Peck, who approved the search warrant.

The warrant stemmed from a 2008 investigation by Fayette County Child and Youth Services into allegations that a prominent businessman had molested an infant there.

In a federal lawsuit, Shaw, 52, of North Huntingdon claimed that the state police quashed the probe because the unnamed businessman had political connections and provided perks to authorities. Instead of going after the businessman, Shaw alleged that Jones and his now-retired superiors -- Deputy Commissioner John Brown, Maj. Charles Skurkis and Capt. Willard Oliphant -- threatened him with criminal charges and the loss of his pension.

A separate lawsuit by ex-Trooper Cheryl Amodei-Mascara, 48, of Washington claimed that Skurkis, Oliphant and Jones retaliated against her following suspicions that she had injected herself into the molestation investigation.

Jones had sought the phone records to prove Amodei-Mascara and Shaw had talked. The businessman was never charged, and Shaw and Amodei-Mascara retired.

According to paperwork obtained by the Trib through the state's Right-to-Know Law, Shaw, Amodei-Mascara and their downtown attorney, Susan Mahood, split a $675,000 settlement after agreements were inked in late March and early April.

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