Ex-officer sues Burgettstown, DA
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Former Burgettstown Police Officer Amber Price has sued that municipality, its former police chief, Washington County District Attorney Steven M. Toprani, and several county detectives and state troopers over a series of incidents in 2008 and 2009 that culminated in criminal charges against her.
Ms. Price, represented by Downtown attorney Michael Pietro, alleged in her complaint filed late Friday in U.S. District Court that charges against her were driven by her reports of a hidden camera in a Burgettstown Municipal Building room in which she routinely changed clothes.
Ms. Price used the room to change clothes because the Burgettstown police department did not provide a women's locker room, according to the complaint. In November of 2008, she found a video camera hidden in a ceiling vent. She came to believe that the camera was placed there "to capture video of an officer with [Burgettstown] having sex with a female acquaintance," though the reason for trying to film any such liaison is unclear.
She reported the camera's placement to the state attorney general's office and to Washington County police. Not long thereafter, she was subjected to a series of what she characterizes in the complaint as interrogations by state and county officers regarding a March 2008 drug arrest with which she was involved.
The interrogations led to charges against her of false swearing, official oppression and conspiracy. At the root of the charges against her was an assertion that she lied on an affidavit by claiming that she saw a drug suspect leave his house, when that was actually witnessed by another officer. In the complaint, she said that claim was an honest mistake. Charges against her were dismissed, refiled, and then dropped.
Ms. Price's complaint said the actions against her amounted to violations of due process and equal protection, malicious prosecution, false imprisonment during the interrogations, and abuse of process. The absence of proper facilities at the Burgettstown Municipal Building is a form of gender discrimination, according to the complaint.
Mr. Toprani's office declined comment. Ms. Price also worked for the Smith Township police department, which was a subject of Mr. Toprani's scrutiny after a series of allegations of misconduct.
Mr. Pietro could not be reached for immediate comment. Burgettstown officials could not be immediately reached.
First Published November 29, 2010 10:35 am