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Fayette man says probation officers unlawfully detained him

| Wednesday, March 24, 2004

UNIONTOWN -- A man whose run for Fayette County commissioner last fall was cut short by a jail sentence has called upon that board to investigate the county probation officers who he claims unlawfully detained him.

"I'm not going to let this issue die," said Michael Cavanagh. "No citizen in this country should have something like this done to them."

Cavanagh claims the officers detained him with unnecessary force and were out of their jurisdiction before taking him to the Fayette County Prison to begin serving a two-to-24-month sentence for felony insurance fraud. The incident happened last August in Morgantown, W.Va., he said, adding he was not under the probation department's supervision at the time.

Cavanagh was convicted in 2001, but he was not taken to jail until after his appeal to the state Supreme Court was rejected.

He had filed petitions to run for county commissioner as an independent weeks before his sentence. After his release, he dropped out of the race.

On Tuesday, Cavanagh addressed the board of commissioners for about five minutes, at one point calling the probation officers "rogues."

"This is a very important issue," he said. "These are civil rights violations."

The case has been forwarded to the state Attorney General's Office, but Cavanagh called upon the commissioners to investigate the matter internally as well.

"Do I have assurance that you're going to look into it?" he asked.

"No," said Commissioner Angela Zimmerlink. She said the probation officers are overseen by the court, not her board.

"That's not to say that the county commissioners would ignore it," Zimmerlink added.

No decision was made.

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