Harmony man sues police after nearly 5 weeks in jail

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A Harmony man sued that township and two of its police officers Monday, saying he was wrongly jailed for nearly five weeks based on an expired warrant.

Tyrone Anthony Lett, 43, had an encounter with Harmony police on July 4, 2011, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court by attorney Gianni Floro. That day, police showed up at his house in search of illegal fireworks, and dumped out his garbage, but refused to clean it up, the complaint said.

Then on July 28, an unknown man in a truck picked up Mr. Lett's wife against her will, prompting him to call the police in a panic, it said. The man let her go, but police were angry that he called 911 repeatedly, it said. When he argued with his wife upon return home, police arrested him and charged him with simple assault, terroristic threats and harassment, it said.

The charges against him in relation to the incident were dismissed, it said, but police discovered a 2002 bench warrant against Mr. Lett from San Bernardino County in California. He said the warrant was invalid because he had served out his term of parole, but he was jailed through the end of August anyway.

He was held in the Beaver County Prison. As a result of the detention, he missed work and lost his job, the complaint said.

Mr. Lett has sued the township, Sgt. James Essek and Officer Jason A. Vular for false arrest and malicious prosecution.

Sgt. Essek said he had not yet been served with the complaint, and could not comment on the specifics. "We know what we did, and our reports will document that," he said.

He said that whenever his department makes an arrest, dispatch checks for warrants and then confirms their validity.

"Our dispatch would have sent California a message and they would have verified that there was an active warrant," he said. "Otherwise our jail wouldn't have taken him."

Mr. Lett's 20-year history of encounters with law enforcement includes guilty pleas to simple assault, false reports, drunk driving, theft by deception, disorderly conduct and harassment, according to online dockets.


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


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