Thom, Springdale, 2 others sued over 2011 Tasering in police car
Springdale Borough knew police Officer Mark Thom was violent and had unnecessarily Tasered citizens before his Dec. 17, 2011, assault on a handcuffed Tarentum man, according to a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday.
Thom pleaded guilty in March to a federal criminal charge of depriving Gary Cahill, 36, of his civil rights by punching and Tasering Cahill as he sat, handcuffed, in the back of a police cruiser following what Cahill calls an unprovoked traffic stop.
Cahill is suing Thom, the borough, former police Chief Joseph Naviglia, who retired in May, and former Officer Jeremy Liotta, who was present during the assault, the suit claims.
Borough Council President Dave Finley declined comment on the lawsuit: “I know nothing about it.”
Finley last month defended Thom, saying he was the victim of a “character assassination.”
In the lawsuit, Cahill claims Thom pointed an AR-15 rifle at him, then handcuffed him and placed him in the back of Thom's police cruiser. He claims Thom berated him, punched him in the face and Tasered him repeatedly.
Cahill was charged with resisting arrest, attempting to flee an officer, drunken driving, possession of marijuana and other charges. The case against him was dropped last month, according to court records.
“Defendants Springdale and Naviglia were on notice of Thom's violent propensities, his improper and excessive use of force, including the unnecessary Tasering of citizens, and were on notice that Thom carried out false arrests and/or filed false and unfounded criminal charges against citizens,” according to Cahill's lawsuit.
Off-duty Allegheny County police Officer Raymond A. Hrabos last year filed a federal lawsuit against Thom, Liotta, Naviglia, the borough and another borough officer, claiming his civil rights were violated during a February 2010 incident in which Thom allegedly assaulted him after Hrabos tapped on the window of an officer's pickup truck to find out why he was blocking a narrow, snow-covered street.
The borough's insurer in March paid $98,500 to settle that suit.
Thom resigned from the force the same day he pleaded guilty to the federal civil rights charges but Springdale Council last month hired him as a summer public works employee.
Thom originally was to be sentenced on July 12 but U.S. District Judge Mark Hornak agreed to postpone sentencing until Oct. 22 at Thom's request.
In a motion filed on June 28 by Thom's attorney, Robert E. Stewart of Pittsburgh, the defense said it needed additional time before presenting “certain factors (that) will potentially have a dramatic impact on the Court's consideration to the appropriate sentence imposed.”
The government and Thom agreed federal guidelines call for a maximum sentence of 30 months in prison if Hornak finds Thom obstructed justice by filing an incomplete report of the incident. Stewart has said he will argue for home confinement, based on Thom's character and history.
Liotta also is facing criminal charges stemming from a May 17 traffic stop in which Harmar police allege he had a powdered form a diabetes drug and his Springdale police badge that officials say he stole. He tentatively faces a preliminary hearing on the charges on July 10.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- DUI checkpoints take on dangerous drivers
- Positives seen despite Valley Junior-Senior High School performance scores
- Salvation Army taking iconic red kettles online