A Vietnam veteran who claims he was wrongfully arrested for a gunpoint robbery, an act that subsequently caused him to spend nearly two months in county prison, has filed suit against the police officers who took him into custody two years ago.

West Chester, Pa. attorney John L. Rollins filed the complaint Oct. 25 at the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia on behalf of Coatesville, Pa. resident Joseph Patrick Lawson.

The lawsuit states that Lawson was falsely and unlawfully arrested on Oct. 29, 2010, after a robbery victim identified the plaintiff as one of the people involved in the stickup, which occurred outside of the Midway Restaurant at 652 E. Lincoln Highway.

The robbery victim said he had been held up by three black men wielding handguns and demanding money.

While driving around looking for the perpetrators with police, the robbery victim eventually pointed out Lawson as being one of the men involved in the crime, the suit shows.

After being taken into custody, Lawson appeared at a preliminary hearing, during which the magisterial judge held the plaintiff on charges of robbery, theft by unlawful taking of moveable property, receiving stolen property, terroristic threats and four conspiracy counts, the lawsuit states.

During the late December 2010 preliminary hearing, the robbery victim testified that officers had picked up the wrong man, the lawsuit states.

The judge eventually dismissed all charges against Lawson.

Meanwhile, the plaintiff had already spent close to two months in county lockup awaiting his preliminary hearing.

Lawson subsequently had to spend about 10 days at the Coatesville VA Medical Center for depression and suicidal thoughts and feelings, which were allegedly caused by his ordeal with law enforcement, the suit states.

The plaintiff contends that the acts on the part of police personnel constituted violations of his constitutional rights.

“As a direct and proximate result of the defendants’ unwarranted, illegal and unconstitutional actions, Plaintiff Joseph Patrick Lawson suffered physical pain, fear, horror, severe depression, suicidal thoughts, restlessness, humiliation, nervousness and chagrin, embarrassment, humiliation, as well as severe mental and emotional distress, and a loss of nature enjoyment of life and life’s pleasures, some or all of the foregoing may be permanent,” the lawsuit states.

In addition to the federal constitutional claims, the lawsuit contains counts of state law claims, including false arrest and false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and malicious abuse of process of law, and both negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The defendants named in the complaint are the City of Coatesville, former city police Chief Julius Canale, Police Officer Brenden Boyle, Police Cpl. Jeffrey Ingemie and 30 John and Jane Doe police officers and officials.

The plaintiff seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, attorney’s fees and costs.


The federal case number is 2:12-cv-06100-AB. 

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