Springdale insurance carrier pays Harmar man $225,000 over Taser incident

Liz Hayes
| Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Springdale Borough's insurance carrier paid $225,000 to settle a federal lawsuit involving alleged civil rights violations by former borough police Officer Mark E. Thom and other officers.

In July, Gary Cahill, 36, of Harmar sued the borough, Thom, former police Chief Joseph Naviglia Jr. and former Officer Jeremy C. Liotta over a December 2011 incident in which Thom shocked Cahill with a Taser while Cahill was handcuffed and sitting in the back of a police cruiser.

Cahill agreed to dismiss the lawsuit on Sept. 25 after the settlement was reached with Arizona-based Scottsdale Insurance Co. on the borough's behalf.

Springdale and the rest of the defendants do not admit wrongdoing in the agreement, which was signed by Cahill on Sept. 10 and released on Monday by Springdale Solicitor Steve Yakopec.

It is the second federal lawsuit the borough's insurer has settled this year.

Allegheny County police Officer Raymond A. Hrabos in March was paid $98,500 to settle his lawsuit, which also alleged civil rights violations by Thom and other borough police officers.

“We're pleased that the matter is resolved,” said Tim O'Brien, Cahill's lawyer. “Hopefully, a message will be sent to ensure police officers are properly trained.

“I think Mr. Cahill's case was an important case to address issues regarding a police officer who required more supervision and who should not have been permitted to be in the position to use a Taser or some other weapon on a citizen,” O'Brien said. “The case involved an individual officer, but equally important is who was minding the store in terms of an officer with the type of complaints that had been filed against him.”

Prior to the Cahill incident, Hrabos had sued Thom, Liotta, Naviglia, the borough and another officer, claiming his civil rights were violated during a February 2010 incident in which Thom allegedly assaulted him when Hrabos, who was not on duty, tapped on the window of an officer's pickup to find out why he was blocking a narrow, snow-covered street.

“That case alone should have sent some pretty clear signals that they needed to be more careful of who they entrusted with (police) powers,” said O'Brien, who also represented Hrabos.

Over a year later, during what Cahill called an unprovoked traffic stop, he said Thom pointed an AR-15 rifle at him, then handcuffed him and placed him in the back of a police car. He said Thom berated him, punched him in the face and shocked him repeatedly with a Taser.

Cahill initially was charged with resisting arrest, attempting to flee an officer, drunken driving, possession of marijuana and other charges.

The case against Cahill was dropped in June, according to court records.

Thom pleaded guilty in March to a federal charge of depriving Cahill of his civil rights. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 22.

Thom resigned his position on the police force after his guilty plea.

Springdale Council in June hired him as a summer public works employee; it's not clear whether he still works for the borough.

Mayor Eileen Miller declined to comment. Council President David Finley did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or lhayes@tribweb.com.

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