A York City man has filed a federal lawsuit against West York and some of its police officers, claiming they violated his constitutional rights by using excessive force against him.
Carlos Rivera, 39, of the first block of North Penn Street, claims he suffered injuries to his face and mouth at the hands of the officers when they arrested him for public drunkenness and "disorderly conduct, engaged in fighting" in 2011.
Rivera is seeking $150,000 in damages, according to the complaint filed in the U.S. Middle District Court of Pennsylvania on Jan. 25.
Named in the civil complaint are officer Scott Musselman and former officer Charles Snyder, who left the West York Police for a position with another department, two unnamed officers and the borough.
Patrick Geckle, Rivera's attorney from Philadelphia, said the names of the two officers will come out through finding of facts as the case progresses.
Attorneys with Lavery, Faherty, Patterson - the Harrisburg law firm representing the borough - and the officers did not return numerous calls seeking comment.
West York Police Chief Justin Seibel declined comment.
Allegations: According to the complaint, Rivera was in the parking lot of the Overbrook Café, 40 Overbrook Ave., on Jan 29, 2011, when the officers approached him because he had an open bottle of alcohol.
Officers ordered Rivera to the ground and handcuffed him.
With Rivera bound by the metal cuffs, one or all of the officers allegedly "began to strike (Rivera) in the head, on this face and his eyes" with their fists and a flashlight and slammed Rivera on the hood of a vehicle, the complaint says.
"They (officers) certainly did have a right to go up to him and find out what was going on," Geckle said. "But what happened after is the basis for the lawsuit."
The lawsuit says Rivera did not "do anything which could be perceived as a threat" to the officers.
The officers took Rivera to York Hospital to be treated for a contusion to his right eye, abrasions on the inside of his lip, a bloody nose and a broken nose, the complaint says.
Geckle said his client has lingering effects from the incident.
"He still has problems with headaches and things like that," he said. "In my humble opinion, it was excessive."
Citations: Police wrote on Rivera's citation for disorderly conduct that Rivera and an unnamed woman, listed as his girlfriend, were performing sexual acts in public when police spotted them.
When officers attempted to arrest the "highly intoxicated" Rivera, he became combative and resisted arrest, the citation states.
Rivera had a blood-alcohol level of 0.267 percent at the time of the incident, according to the citation. That's more than three times the state's legal drunken-driving limit of 0.08 percent.
Rivera pleaded guilty to both the disorderly conduct and the public drunkenness charges before district judge Walter Groom a day after the incident, according to court documents.
However, Rivera later appealed the disorderly conduct charge to the York County Court of Commons Pleas. Judge John S. Kennedy upheld the guilty plea on July 27, the documents state.
Borough: The complaint also claims the borough encourages such alleged behavior by the officers because it fails to launch inquires into allegations or to discipline officers.
However, attorneys for the borough filed a motion to dismiss the borough from the lawsuit, stating there are "no allegations of any pattern of similar constitutional violations" of employees.
The case is scheduled to go to jury trial on June 2, 2014.
- Reach Greg Gross at firstname.lastname@example.org.