Federal grand jury indicts Millvale police officer for tasing cuffed suspect
A Millvale man and his family probably won't celebrate the indictment of a police officer who is shown on video repeatedly tasing him, said an attorney who represented the man.
“Quite frankly, I don't think that that is of major concern to them,” said Downtown attorney David Shrager. “They're not vengeance-oriented. He just wants to do what's required of him under the law, cooperate with the FBI and move on with his life.”
A federal grand jury on Tuesday charged Millvale police Officer Nichole Murphy with violating the civil rights of Thomas Jason James Smith on Sept. 21, 2012.
Millvale police had arrested Smith, 28, for public drunkenness. He was sitting handcuffed on the floor of the police station when he started banging his head against a desk. Using both the probes and making direct contact with the Taser, Murphy repeatedly shocked Smith to make him stop, according to court documents.
Shrager represented Smith on the criminal charges police filed against him. Smith pleaded guilty to public drunkenness and disorderly conduct.
His mother previously told the Tribune-Review that Smith has bipolar disorder, depression and other mental health problems.
Murphy, 30, of Shaler and police Chief Derek Miller couldn't be reached for comment on Wednesday.
The police department conducted an internal investigation and reprimanded Murphy. She received additional training on the use of a Taser, said Jack Cambest, the borough's solicitor.
Borough council will have to decide whether to place Murphy, a part-time officer, on paid or unpaid leave while the charges are pending, he said. Council's next regular meeting is Tuesday, but it probably won't make a decision then, Cambest said.
“I would expect that if there's any action taken, it will be taken within the next month, one way or the other,” he said.
Mayor Vincent Cinski and council President James Machajewski Jr. couldn't be reached for comment.
Millvale paid Smith $37,500 last month to settle a civil lawsuit he filed. Gianni Floro, the lawyer who represented him in the civil case, said the indictment surprised him.
Floro, who has 10 years of experience in bringing civil rights cases that include allegations of police misconduct, said it's rare for such a case to result in criminal charges.
“I think that it's important for the Justice Department to investigate and potentially prosecute these types of cases if they find them to be warranted,” he said.
Shrager said he wasn't surprised by the indictment because he knew the Justice Department had conducted a thorough investigation. Smith and his family cooperated but didn't do so out of spite, he said.
“My client does not have any malice toward the officer or any agenda,” Shrager said.
Smith couldn't be reached for comment. Shrager said the incident left Smith more fearful of others but that he's doing well.
“He's a very hard worker and a very kind and compassionate young man,” Shrager said. “I've never heard him during this entire situation say anything mean or hateful or negative.”
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.
- $750,000 grant will help Allegheny County ‘Live Well,’ authorities say
- Allgheny County charter school students give more than $11K to assist homeless children
- North Shore access to be limited Saturday for Chesney concert, officials say
- Witnesses recall scene of crash in Lincoln Place homicide by vehicle trial
- Penn Hills votes to sell, lease vacant school space
- Air rifle incidents on the rise, experts say
- With space to spare, Pittsburgh International draws corporate jet carrier
- Plum schools, dealing with sex scandal, to form panel in June
- Former executive says Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority fired her for reporting overbilling
- Newsmaker: Rick Rechenberg
- Land eyed for trail connectors to expand Harrison Hills Park