By Jill Whalen (Staff Writer) / http://www.standardspeaker.com
Published: December 26, 2009
A Hazle Township man filed a lawsuit against seven Pennsylvania State Police troopers in federal court, claiming they beat him when he came to the aid of a township woman who was being assaulted.Lawyers for Christopher Keller filed the action in Pennsylvania’s Middle District court against Michael Hartzel, John Stravinski, Craig Flynn, James Meyers, Shawn Mrochko, Michael Borash and Shawn Noonan.
According to the lawsuit:
Keller, who was recovering from five broken ribs after a fall on the ice, heard a neighbor calling for help on Feb. 13. He arrived at the home to find Joseph Ganci, 87, striking Elizabeth Rossi and threatening her with a sharpened screwdriver. Keller attempted to calm Ganci, who ordered him away, then threatened to kill him and stabbed him in the leg with the screwdriver.
Keller ordered Rossi inside the mobile home, told her to lock the door and call police. As Keller struggled to gain control of Ganci, Ganci kicked in the door to the home, and began to pursue Rossi with the screwdriver.
Keller was able to get on top of Ganci, who continued to threaten him as police arrived. Believing Keller was the perpetrator, police grabbed him, threw him facedown to the ground and handcuffed him. Some of the defendants jumped on Keller’s back, the lawsuit states.
Hartzel kicked Keller in the back of the head, causing his nose to break. Another defendant kicked him in the side, causing a broken rib.
The lawsuit states that an internal investigation was conducted by the Internal Affairs Division of the Pennsylvania State Police.
No defendant observed Keller act in “any way that would justify the use of force against him,” the lawsuit reads.
The lawsuit also says “Hartzel attempted to conceal his illegal and wrongful conduct by asking defendant Flynn to tell investigators that he ‘did not see anything.'” He also told Flynn that he was unhappy that Meyers volunteered information to Internal Affairs, according to the lawsuit.
Hartzel, who was a state police corporal, faced a misdemeanor simple assault charge in Luzerne County Court. Lesser charges were dismissed.
Jack J. Lewis, a state police spokesman, said state police policy is to not comment on lawsuits.