Ridley Township, Pa. and officers sued over October 2009 incident

Jon Campisi Oct. 11, 2011, 9:55am

A Southeastern, Pa. couple who alleges they were mistreated by members of a local police department is suing the individual officers in federal court.

The civil rights complaint was jointly filed Oct. 5 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by Broomall, Pa. attorney James D. Famiglio and Conshohocken, Pa. attorney Stuart A. Carpey on behalf of Jason and Anissa Zebley of Holmes, Pa.

The defendants named in the lawsuit are Ridley Township and municipal police officers Brian Judge, Edward Howley and Jason McDevitt.

According to the complaint, the husband and wife were patrons at Rick’s Place, a bar and restaurant in Folsom, Pa., in the early morning hours of Oct. 25, 2009, when Jason Zebley encountered two men accosting his wife outside of the bar.

Jason Zebley, who had stepped outside to speak to a friend at the time of the encounter, was punched in the face by one of the men when he approached them, the suit states, leaving Jason Zebley to hop into his vehicle and follow the two after they fled.

As he was driving along, Jason Zebley was pulled over by defendant Judge, who was working in his capacity as a police officer at the time.

After obtaining Zebley’s information, Judge forcibly grabbed the plaintiff, and handcuffed him while on the ground outside the vehicle.

Judge proceeded to trip Jason Zebley, causing the plaintiff to fall on his face and sustain a facial laceration. And when the two got to the police station, the officer grabbed Zebley by the back of the head and slammed his face into a brick hallway in the lobby, the lawsuit alleges.

After being placed into the cell, defendants Judge and McDevitt then assaulted Jason Zebley yet again, this time punching him in the head numerous times, the suit states.

Jason Zebley eventually blacked out, and was awoken when being transported to the hospital for treatment of his injuries.

As a result of the attack, Jason Zebley sustained numerous physical injuries, including lacerations on his lip, eyebrow and ear, as well as bruises throughout his entire body, the lawsuit claims.

He required a total of 22 stitches to close the various lacerations on his head and face.

According to the complaint, Anissa Zebley had gone outside of the bar to look for her husband, and, when she couldn’t find him, she was approached by the two bar patrons, who proceeded to curse at her and call her racial slurs, the suit claims.

After Jason Zebley took off after the men, Anissa Zebley was approached by defendant Officer Howley, who told the woman to get off her cell phone, and, when she didn’t, proceeded to arrest her.

She was charged with disorderly conduct, but the charges were eventually dismissed by a district judge.

Similarly, Jason Zebley was charged with disorderly conduct and public drunkenness, but he, too, was found not guilty in Delaware County Common Pleas Court.

“The unlawful detention, arrest, search and use of unreasonable force against both Plaintiffs was a direct result of Defendants’ pattern, practice and custom of subjecting citizens such as Plaintiffs to unreasonable force and duress, in the absence of probable cause,” the lawsuit states. “The Defendants acted willfully, deliberately, maliciously or with reckless disregard of both Plaintiffs’ constitutional and statutory rights.”

The lawsuit also states that Jason Zebley incurred various medical expenses as a result of the treatment of his wounds.

The lawsuit contains counts of civil rights violations and assault and battery claims, as well as claims of negligent infliction of emotional distress, unlawful/false arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution.

For each of the counts listed, the plaintiffs demand judgment against the defendants for a sum in excess of $150,000, plus interest, attorney’s fees and related costs.

There is also a punitive damages claim for which the plaintiffs also seek $150,000 plus court costs.

A jury trial has been demanded.

The federal case number is 2:11-cv-06258-TON.

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