Pennsylvania Record

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Pittsburgh settles civil rights, wrongful arrest claim with city man for $100K

By Jon Campisi | Jul 25, 2013


A western Pennsylvania man and Pittsburgh police have agreed to a $100,000 settlement in a civil case in which the plaintiff claimed he was wrongfully arrested by city cops after making critical remarks to the officers, who were in plainclothes and driving an unmarked vehicle at the time of the arrest.

Court records show that Pittsburgh resident Jeff Collins has agreed to voluntarily withdraw his complaint against the city and a handful of its police officers after the defendants agreed to settle the claims with the plaintiff out of court.

The July 24 stipulation for dismissal was signed by Collins’s attorney, Margaret Schuetz Coleman, of the Pittsburgh-based Law Offices of Timothy P. O’Brien, and Bryan Campbell, who served as counsel for the defendants.

The court docket in the case shows that U.S. District Judge Joy Flowers Conti, of the Western District of Pennsylvania, had filed an order back in early June acknowledging the pending dismissal; this week’s filing of the stipulation between the parties made the case’s closure official.

Collins filed suit in early May 2010 at the Allegheny County Common Pleas Court – the action was later removed to the federal venue because it contained counts of civil rights violations – against the City of Pittsburgh, Police Chief Nathan Harper, and Officers Freeman, Shanahan and Rosetta, (the officers’ first names were not listed in the complaint), over allegations that he was arrested in retaliation for remarks he made about the officers after the plaintiff was pulled over while riding his motorcycle in the fall of 2006 in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood.

While the suit doesn’t specify the reason for the motor vehicle stop, it does say the officers, who were not wearing police uniforms and were operating an undercover vehicle at the time, took issue with remarks made by the plaintiff, which included the fact that they should not have been pursuing him in an unmarked vehicle in plainclothes and that the defendants were not “real police.”

It was at that point that the officers, “without any reasonable basis or justification for doing so, used unnecessary and excessive force causing plaintiff to sustain bodily harm and injury,” the lawsuit had stated.

Collins was initially charged with fleeing and eluding police and other serious criminal charges, but the charges were eventually dismissed for failure to present a case, the record shows.

In his suit, Collins asserted that his First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated during the course of the police stop.

The suit also contained claims of false arrest, excessive force and the filing of false and malicious criminal charges.

Collins claimed in his suit that he had suffered physical injuries, emotional distress and incurred medical expenses and suffered wage losses as a result of the ordeal.

The defendants were represented by attorneys from the City of Pittsburgh’s Law Department, the record shows.

Schuetz Coleman, the plaintiff’s lawyer, did not respond on Wednesday to an emailed message from the Pennsylvania Record seeking to confirm the settlement figure.

In a story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, however, the lawyer confirmed that that was the amount the city agreed to pay to her client.

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