Attorneys seek sanctions, gag order in suit involving Highland Park traffic stop

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Attorneys representing the city of Pittsburgh in a federal civil rights lawsuit involving a man who was paralyzed after fleeing a traffic stop filed a motion on Tuesday for sanctions and are seeking a gag order.

The motion alleges that Leon Ford's attorneys, Monte and Fred Rabner, have misused the criminal court process to obtain documents related to their ongoing federal civil case.

Mr. Ford, 21, of Shaler, is scheduled to go to trial on charges of aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person, resisting arrest and related charges stemming from the traffic stop in Highland Park on Nov. 11, 2012.

According to his lawsuit, officers David Derbish and Andrew Miller and retired officer Michael Kosko used excessive force and violated Mr. Ford's due process rights in the incident. The suit also names acting police Chief Regina McDonald and former chief Nate Harper for failing to properly train the officers.

In a motion filed in federal court Tuesday, Bryan Campbell, the police union attorney representing the three officers in the case, wrote that Mr. Ford's attorneys are "circumventing the procedure of federal court by seeking discovery of matters related to the civil matter in criminal court."

By doing so, Mr. Campbell continued, Mr. Ford's lawyers have prohibited the city from filing the documents under a protective order to keep them confidential.

One document referenced by the city is the Critical Incident Review Board report, which the Rabners contend is critical of how the responding officers acted the night of the traffic stop.

Common Pleas Judge Donald E. Machen earlier this month ordered the Allegheny County district attorney's office to turn over the 12-page report to Mr. Ford's defense.

The city alleges, too, in its motion that Mr. Ford's attorneys have violated the rules of professional conduct and asks U.S. Magistrate Judge Maureen Kelly to impose sanctions.

In a response filed the same day, Monte Rabner wrote that he has refused numerous media requests to release the report and that Judge Machen ruled that the discovery requests made in the criminal case are relevant to fighting the charges against Mr. Ford.

Further, he said that the commonwealth never asked for a protective order on any documents turned over in the criminal case.

Mr. Ford's criminal trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 2.

The civil lawsuit is on hold, awaiting a decision by the judge on the city's motion to dismiss it.

Paula Reed Ward: pward@post-gazette.com.



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