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Felony hacking charge won't be filed against fired Plum officer

| Tuesday, July 1, 2014, 11:03 p.m.

The Allegheny County District Attorney's Office will not refile a felony charge of hacking against Jeremy J. Cumberledge, the fired Plum police officer accused of illegally snooping through borough computer records.

On June 11, Plum District Justice Linda Inez Zucco questioned the borough's evidence that a hacking felony had been committed and dismissed a charge of unlawful use of a computer.

“We felt it was made clear during the preliminary hearing that even though we had all the elements of a favorable prosecution, the court felt that since Cumberledge did not personally gain from his actions, either financially or otherwise, the charges were not warranted,” DA spokesman Mike Manko wrote on Tuesday in an email to the Tribune-Review.

Told by the Trib of the decision, Cumberledge, 31, said he welcomed the “great news” and vowed to keep fighting to get his job back through an arbitration hearing guaranteed by the police union's collective bargaining agreement.

His criminal defense attorney, Michael J. Deriso, called the criminal case against Cumberledge “ridiculous” and praised the DA for “doing the right thing” by nixing the prosecution that began April 10, nearly a month after borough council fired the officer.

Cumberledge, who was hired full time in 2007, has been less successful obtaining jobless benefits. A June 20 order from the Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Board of Review revealed that Cumberledge was caught on camera wrongfully accessing the Plum chief of police's computer files. Cumberledge eavesdropped on the “network profiles” of other officers and the “medical documents and financial information” of other employees — including “user names and passwords to banking files” — before erasing his browsing history from the police station terminals, according to the board's decision.

Deriso said that the unemployment ruling was “as absurd as the initial charges,” with the administrative judge refusing to let him call witnesses refuting the borough's probe. He told the Trib that Cumberledge is appealing that decision and predicted that the former officer would win that, too.

Police Chief Jeffrey Armstrong and Plum Manager Michael Thomas declined comment.

Karen Zapf and Carl Prine are staff writers for Trib Total Media. Reach Zapf at 412-871-2367 or kzapf@tribweb.com. Reach Prine at 412-320-7826 or cprine@tribweb.com.

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