Former Springdale Borough police officer pleads guilty to violating man's rights

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

Mark E. Thom Jr., 31, who joined the force in 2008, faces sentencing July 12, and 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 that the victim, Gary Cahill, was driving a Cadillac Escalade in the borough in the early morning of Dec. 17, 2011, when Sgt. 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 then 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. Sgt. Thom then 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 that the victim was not resisting.

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

U.S. District Judge Mark Hornak ordered the U.S. marshal service to hold Mr. Thom while his residence is searched for guns and handcuffs, after which he was to 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 Friday.

Mr. Thom also is 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.

neigh_north

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


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