David Andrews was "scared stiff" when Stowe police came to his workplace and arrested him for child luring, he said. He was "petrified" during a three-day stay at the Allegheny County Jail.
Now that he has been exonerated, he's determined to tell the world about the accusation that came within a sheet of paper of ruining his life.
Mr. Andrews, 52, of Beaver Falls, was charged a year ago with luring a child, corruption of minors, harassment and stalking. In June, he was found not guilty on all charges after evidence showed that Stowe police had concealed aspects of the victim's initial report, according to the lawsuit he filed Wednesday.
The experience "contradicts everything I ever believed about our government," Mr. Andrews said. "You think that you're innocent until proven guilty. That's not the way it really works."
According to the complaint filed by attorney Timothy P. O'Brien, the accuser was a 15-year-old girl who reported to 911 that a 35-year-old black-haired man tried to lure her into a red four-door car with a license plate beginning with the letters ACG.
A day later, she told police she saw the perpetrator. That man, Mr. Andrews, was 51, with graying hair, and drove a red two-door sedan that had a license plate number beginning with JDG.
Officer Robert Sciulli, then of Stowe, filed an arrest warrant that "contained material falsehoods and omissions," according to the complaint, ignoring the discrepancies between the youth's reports. Police arrested Mr. Andrews at his work.
Mr. O'Brien called that "one of the most devastating things that can happen to a citizen -- to be falsely accused of engaging in activities to harm a child."
Mr. Andrews, an Air Force veteran and married father of four who works in a transmission repair business, presented cell phone records that put him at his home in Beaver Falls at the time of the incident in Stowe, according to the complaint.
"It just boggles my mind that [Stowe police] just don't care," Mr. Andrews said.
Stowe police withheld the accuser's original report describing the perpetrator from both Mr. Andrews and from the prosecutor until the day of trial, Mr. O'Brien said. Defense attorney Tom Farrell forced the department to reveal the report, which brought about the collapse of the case against Mr. Andrews.
"This is the difference between 15 years in prison and somebody not being subjected to prison," said Mr. O'Brien, holding the one-page report.
Common Pleas Judge Philip A. Ignelzi found Mr. Andrews not guilty.
Officer Sciulli is named as a defendant along with the township and acting Chief Matt Preininger. A Stowe employee said that Office Sciulli no longer works there. The chief, officer, township manager and solicitor could not be reached for comment.
Mr. Andrews maintained in the complaint that the events violated his rights against unreasonable seizure and constituted false and malicious prosecution. He seeks compensation for emotional distress and damage to his reputation, plus payment for attorney fees including roughly $10,000 spent on his defense.
He said he hasn't recovered. "I'm constantly looking over my shoulder to see if someone is following me."
Rich Lord: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1542 or on Twitter: @richelord.