Lawyers for SEPTA cops accused in beating seek to transfer suit to federal court

By Jon Campisi | Jan 11, 2012

Legal counsel for two SEPTA police officers being sued for allegedly beating and unlawfully arresting a train passenger in the spring of 2008 has filed a request to have the case transferred from state court to federal court in Philadelphia.

The notice of removal was filed Jan. 6 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by attorney Jeffrey M. Scott of the Philadelphia law firm Archer & Greiner.

Scott represents Edward Kaiser and Harry Newell, two police officers for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority who are accused of beating Philadelphia resident James Gleesen as he slept on a train that was stopped at the Frankford Avenue terminal of the Market Street line on April 4, 2008.

Lawyer Evan S. Shingles filed the initial complaint on behalf of Gleesen in December of last year at the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

The complaint alleges that the two officers accosted Gleesen and beat him without provocation, injuring Gleesen’s legs, head and torso with baton strikes.

The lawsuit claims that Gleesen, who had fallen asleep while aboard the train, was violently awakened by a blow to the head delivered by Newell.

“Without legal cause or justification, and based upon the false allegations made by Defendants, Plaintiff was then arrested and charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct,” the lawsuit states.

The complaint does not specify the alleged illegal activities performed by Gleesen; it only says that he was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing after a trial before a city judge in early September 2009.

The lawsuit accuses the two police officers of malicious prosecution, claiming Gleesen had to “endure the prospect of going to trial in order to prove his innocence.

“Defendants acted with malice and furthered the prosecution of Plaintiff by providing false information and/or withheld truthful information, all of which, if known, would have resulted in no prosecution of Plaintiff,” the suit states.

Gleesen claims that he has suffered physical pain and injury, as well as emotional distress, humiliation and mental pain and anguish, not to mention economic losses related to his legal battle.

Gleesen seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorney’s fees and other court costs.

In early December 2011, the defendant’s attorneys filed their objections, stating that the officers should be covered by sovereign immunity, and therefore immune from civil suit.

In late December, Gleesen’s attorney filed an amended complaint.

The officers’ attorney argues in his desire to move the matter to federal court that Gleesen’s complaint contains alleged civil rights violations, which need to be addressed by a U.S. District Court judge.

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