Ex-Springdale Borough police sergeant pleads guilty after punching, using Taser on unarmed man

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A former Springdale Borough police sergeant pleaded guilty today to violating civil rights by punching a handcuffed man and shocking him with a Taser.

Mark E. Thom Jr., 31, who joined the force in 2008, faces sentencing July 12. Federal guidelines are likely to suggest a prison sentence of between 18 and 30 months.

Prosecutor Adriana Vieco, who came from the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., to handle the plea hearing, said Gary Cahill was driving a Cadillac Escalade in Springdale in the early morning of December 17, 2011, when Mr. Thom pulled the car over.

"Thom jumped out of the police vehicle, grabbed an AR-15 [rifle], and ran to the driver's side of the vehicle," Ms. Vieco said.

He pulled Mr. Cahill out of the Escalade, shouted profanities, handcuffed him and put him in the back of a police car, Ms. Vieco said.

The officers saw beer cans and smelled marijuana in the vehicle and let the two passengers go, Ms. Vieco said.

Mr. Thom looked left and right and punched Mr. Cahill in the face, she said.

"Officer Thom yelled, 'Stop resisting,' pulled out his Taser" and shocked the man twice, she said.

"Mr. Cahill described the Taser as being the worst thing that ever happened to him," she said, adding that witnesses saw the arrest and said Mr. Cahill was not resisting.

Asked whether he did all that, Mr. Thom sobbed and said, "Yes, your honor."

U.S. District Judge Mark Hornak ordered the U.S. Marshal's Service to hold Mr. Thom while his residence is searched for guns and handcuffs. Then he will be released on bond until sentencing.

Mr. Thom's attorney, Robert Stewart, said he would argue for a sentence of house arrest, adding that the former officer had a difficult childhood and had tried to make good.

Springdale Borough Manager Ron Borczyk said in a telephone interview that Mr. Thom has been on leave for some time and resigned effective today.

Mr. Thom is also one of the defendants in a civil lawsuit filed a year ago by Allegheny County police Officer Ray Hrabos, who said he was assaulted and falsely accused by Springdale Borough officers in 2010 during a traffic dispute.

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Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1542 and on Twitter: @richelord.


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