Former Phila. officers currently imprisoned are named in police brutality lawsuit

Jon Campisi Mar. 27, 2012, 7:24am

Attorneys for the City of Philadelphia and its police department have filed a notice with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania seeking to transfer a police brutality lawsuit to the federal venue from state court.

Philadelphia attorney Michael A. Etkin filed a lawsuit late last year against the city and police department at Philadelphia’s Common Pleas Court on behalf of city resident Hamond Hawkins.

In addition to the city and police department, the suit named as defendants Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey as well as former Officers James Venziale and Mark Williams.

Those two officers were later swept up in a drug scandal in which they and another officer became the target of a sting involving federal narcotics agents.

The two ended up getting convicted in federal court in a scheme to rob a drug dealer of heroin and resell it on the streets.

Venziale pleaded guilty in February 2011 and was sentenced that May to 42 months in federal prison for his role in the scheme.

Another officer, Robert Snyder, is currently serving a 13-year federal prison sentence for his involvement in the plot.

Williams ended up paying the biggest price, receiving a sentence of 16 years and three months in prison for his role in the conspiracy.

All three were fired from their police positions.

As for the lawsuit, it claims Hawkins was beaten and assaulted by Venziale and Williams, when they were still officers, during an incident back on Jan. 1, 2010 at about 12:30 a.m. along or near the 500 block of Keyser Street.

The then-officers arrested and charged Hawkins with violating the state’s Uniform Firearms Act, receiving stolen property and possessing an instrument of crime.

The charges were subsequently dismissed at Philadelphia Municipal Court following a bench trial before Judge Jacquelyn Frazier-Lyde in early March 2010.

The suit claims that at no time during his arrest did Hawkins physically resist or assault the defendants, nor was he intoxicated, incapacitated or a threat to others.

Nevertheless, the suit claims, the officers beat Hawkins to the point of him sustaining a head laceration, contusions, bruising, nerve damage, migraine headaches, post-traumatic strain and sprain in his back, other physical injuries and psychological trauma.

The injuries caused Hawkins to spend various sums of money on medical attention, the suit claims.

In addition to state claims of assault and battery and false arrest and illegal imprisonment, the lawsuit contains accusations of civil rights violations against the police department and the individual defendant officers.

Because civil rights allegations must be heard in federal court, attorneys for the various defendants asked for the case to be transferred to the U.S. District Court.

The removal notice, filed March 23 at the federal courthouse, and signed by Assistant City Solicitor Mark V. Maguire, says venue is proper in federal, not state, court.


The federal case number is 2:12-cv-01486-CMR. 

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