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Westmoreland

State police facing civil lawsuit in Westmoreland Co. in trooper's sexual harassment case

Paul Peirce
| Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017, 3:48 p.m.
Trooper Eric D. Zona of the Greensburg barracks of the Pennsylvania State Police.
WPXI
Trooper Eric D. Zona of the Greensburg barracks of the Pennsylvania State Police.

A former state police dispatcher in Westmoreland County who has a federal sexual harassment lawsuit pending against the agency this week accused troopers of unlawfully retaliating against her when she made the allegations to her superiors two years ago.

Casey E. Bilik, 30, of New Alexandria filed a civil lawsuit in Westmoreland Common Pleas Court that seeks in excess of $60,000 in damages, back wages and legal fees for retaliation by co-workers and troopers at the Kiski station when she made the complaint that she had been harassed by Trooper Eric Zona at the Greensburg barracks.

“Following her complaint of sexual harassment by Zona, Bilik was repeatedly harassed and shunned by state police personnel,” Bilik's attorney, Christine T. Elzer, wrote in the seven-page complaint.

Zona, 46, of North Huntingdon was charged with misdemeanor counts of indecent assault and open lewdness after he allegedly exposed himself to Bilik in October 2015 at the state police merchandise store at the Greensburg barracks. He pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges.

Zona died Oct. 20, 2016, from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His trial was scheduled to begin two weeks later.

Bilik alleges in the new complaint that after Zona's death, her Kiski supervisor, Sgt. Ryan Maher, instructed on-duty corporals and troopers to escort Bilik to her vehicle when she left at the end of her shift at 11 p.m. because “Maher believed the work environment was so dangerous for Bilik.”

“Various corporals and troopers refused to escort Bilik to her vehicle, claiming she would make false allegations of sexual assault against them if they did so alone,” the complaint states. “Because (state police) acknowledged that Bilik's life was in danger but still refused to protect her, she felt compelled to resign (in January 2017).” Bilik had worked at Kiski since 2013.

As she did in the ongoing federal lawsuit, Bilik alleges that state police should have known of several prior harassment complaints made against Zona that the agency investigated.

“Despite having a zero-tolerance policy with respect to sexual harassment, defendant continued to employ Zona following his violation of the sexual harassment policy,” the lawsuit said.

Bilik alleges that Zona, who had worked at stations in Belle Vernon, Kiski and Greensburg, was transferred multiple times after complaints were made.

“In January 2015, an employee of a bank reported to a trooper that Zona had been asking her on dates and sending her inappropriate text messages. If (state police) had investigated the bank employee's report, it would have learned that Zona sent the employee a text message containing a photograph of his penis,” the lawsuit states.

State police spokesman Cpl. Adam Reed declined comment on the pending litigation.

Elzer said the sexual assault allegations made against Zona in both lawsuits were detailed in state police reports received during the discovery process in the federal lawsuit.

Bilik alleges in her lawsuit that after the criminal case involving her was publicized, 12 other women reported similar misconduct by Zona to District Attorney John Peck's office.

State police in October 2015 filed criminal charges against Zona in relation to an incident involving Bilik at the annex building in the barracks in Hempfield, where she wanted to buy state police merchandise.

The new case filed in Westmoreland tentatively has been assigned to Judge Anthony Marsili.

Elzer said the federal litigation is near the end of the discovery process and attorneys from both sides have a conference Oct. 25 with U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon.

Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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