State police lawyers seek dismissals in dispatcher's lawsuit

Written by The Associated Press | Jul 4, 2017 5:12 AM

FILE PHOTO:  (Photo: Public Opinion)

(Scranton) -- Attorneys for state police are seeking dismissal of most of the claims in a lawsuit filed by a dispatcher who was on duty during a fatal 2014 barracks ambush in Pike County and who alleges that her supervisor raped her earlier and police officials tried covering it up.

Police attorneys argue that counts in the lawsuit by the Dunmore resident should not proceed because, among other reasons, the defendants have governmental immunity.

The woman alleges in the suit filed earlier this year that a trooper who supervised her at the Blooming Grove barracks raped and sexually harassed her in 2013 and that state police officials subsequently orchestrated a campaign to keep her quiet, including trying to have her committed involuntarily to a mental institution.

Senior Deputy Attorney General Keli Neary acknowledged that the woman was investigated and taken for a mental health evaluation but contends that the actions were justified and not retaliatory. Neary is seeking dismissal of seven of 10 counts based on various legal grounds, including a state law that protects police from being sued if their actions were taken within the scope of their employment.

Attorneys Kevin Dempsey and Michael Gallacher, who are representing the woman in the lawsuit first filed in Lackawanna County Court but later moved to federal court, argue that there is an exception to the rule if police conduct is so egregious that it falls outside their normal duties.

The woman was working at the Blooming Grove barracks on Sept. 12, 2014, when police say Eric Frein opened fire from a wooded area across the street, killing Cpl. Bryon Dickson II and critically injuring Trooper Alex Douglass. Frein led police on a 48-day manhunt before his capture. He was convicted in April of first-degree murder and other charges and sentenced to death.

Three days after the attack, investigators -- still seeking to learn the identity of the sniper and the motive -- asked the dispatcher "if she was aware of any conduct relating to the state police which might have provided a motivating cause for the attacks," the lawsuit said. Specifically, she was asked whether "any personal, physical or sexual relationship existed between plaintiff" and her supervisor, the suit said. The dispatcher told investigators that he had raped and sexual harassed her, the suit said.

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