A McKean County woman claims in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday that a state trooper falsely arrested her for DUI because she and her relatives had spoken out against Pennsylvania State Police in their community.
Dianne M. Thompson, of Bradford, filed the complaint against Trooper Matthew Petrof, alleging violations of her First Amendment right to free speech; excessive use of force, malicious prosecution; unlawful search and seizure and unlawful arrest.
She is seeking $1 million in damages.
The state police declined to comment on the lawsuit.
According to the complaint, Ms. Thompson owns the Corner Bar & Restaurant in Bradford, and she and her two brothers, Robert and Donald Cummins, have spoken out publicly against the state police. Last summer, her brothers each had opinion pieces on the subject published in the local newspaper.
The lawsuit alleges that Ms. Thompson was illegally pulled over on Oct. 31. According to the 11-page document, she left her bar about 1 a.m. and was pulled over almost immediately. Trooper Petrof pulled the woman over because she remained too long at a yellow traffic light and for littering, she said.
When he approached her car, the suit continued, the trooper claimed he could smell alcohol on her breath and that her eyes were bloodshot and glassy. He had her perform field sobriety tests, claimed that she failed and then took her to a local hospital for a blood-alcohol test.
The results were negative, the lawsuit said.
Trooper Petrof then handcuffed Ms. Thompson, returned her to her vehicle and gave her two traffic citations.
According to the lawsuit, Ms. Thompson's brother, Robert, went out later that evening to determine if Trooper Petrof was purposefully targeting his family.
Mr. Cummins drove through the community and noticed the trooper following him. He then made turns without using his turn signal and was pulled over.
Again, according to the complaint, the trooper accused Mr. Cummins of driving drunk. He claimed he failed field sobriety tests but only charged Mr. Cummins with summary traffic counts.
Ms. Thompson was later found not guilty by a district judge on the charges filed against her.
Paula Reed Ward: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2620.