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News from the May 4, 2011, Press & Journal edition

Posted 5/9/18

Cop suit will cost Middletown $12,500

Middletown is responsible for $12,500 of a $100,000 settlement of a federal civil rights lawsuit that was filed by a local woman who charged that four police …

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News from the May 4, 2011, Press & Journal edition

Posted

Cop suit will cost Middletown $12,500

Middletown is responsible for $12,500 of a $100,000 settlement of a federal civil rights lawsuit that was filed by a local woman who charged that four police officers and officers with the Dauphin County Drug Task Force sexually harassed her during a drug raid of her Emaus Street home in 2008.

The money will be paid by the borough’s insurance company, which pushed for the settlement as a cheaper alternative to fighting the lawsuit in court, said David McMain, a West Chester attorney who represented the borough and its police in the matter.

“It would have cost more to litigate it through trial,” said McMain. “The insurance company thought it made financial sense.”

The remaining $87,500 is the responsibility of the county and other defendants — police officers from other county forces that were named in the lawsuit.

The parties settled the lawsuit by Deana Perry without prejudice, meaning police and task force members deny they did anything wrong.

Perry charged in her lawsuit that police officers placed a nude photo of her — discovered during a search of her bedroom — in a windowsill next to a sticker that read, “Say ‘NO’ to Drugs ... BUSTED ... Middletown Police Department” during the May 15 search.

Perry also alleged officers forced her to sit on a barstool in her living room in only a T-shirt and panties in front of her four children and three others she was babysitting after she was rousted out of sleep by the early-morning search.

A Middletown officer admitted in court papers that he placed the sticker on her home, while a task force officer from Steelton admitted he placed a photo of Perry in the window near the sticker. The Steelton officer denied the photo showed Perry nude.

The sticker is commonly used by police departments across the country when drugs are discovered during a search, said McMain, an attorney for Lamb McErlane of West Chester. And when officers discovered marijuana during the search – Perry’s husband led them to a small stash that he claimed belonged only to him – the sticker on the house was justified, said McMain.

“I don’t see it as a violation,” he said. “It was, in fact, true.”

Perry’s attorney, Joshua Autry, counters that drug charges against Perry were dropped before District Judge David Judy. A charge of endangering the welfare of children that was filed against her was dismissed by county Judge John Cherry.

Perry’s husband, Dawud, 32, pleaded guilty to drug charges and sentenced to 12 months probation by Cherry. Deana Perry insisted that she didn’t know her husband had marijuana, said Autry, a lawyer with the Camp Hill firm of Boyle, Autry and Murphy.

“She feels just like we do – that the settlement is a step in the right direction and that it sends a signal to not just the Middletown Police Department but police departments everywhere that this kind of behavior is unacceptable,” said Autry.

The state Attorney General’s office, which represented the county task force and two task force supervisors named in the lawsuit, suggested a settlement, and an agreement was eventually reached, said Autry.

Middletown police and task force officers arrived at Perry’s home near dawn with a search warrant, the lawsuit said. Task force officers searching her bedroom found nude photos of her in a nightstand, taken for her husband, the suit said.

Officers spread them on her bed before a window, where passersby could see them, the suit said. Task force officer Tony Elhajj, a Steelton patrolman, admitted in court records that he placed one of Perry’s photos on a windowsill, but denied that it depicted her nude.

“I say that photo wasn’t justifiable under any circumstances – it doesn’t matter what was found,” said Autry. “They were intimate photos she took for her husband. It was done to try and humiliate her and get a cheap laugh. We expect more than that from our police departments.”

Officers denied Deana Perry’s claims in answers to her lawsuit. At no time did Middletown officers “act in bad faith or in a willful, wanton, outrageous, reckless and/or malicious manner,” they said in their answer to Perry’s allegations.

Middletown officer Andrew Crone admitted in court papers that he placed the sticker on Perry’s home.

Perry and her father met with Elhajj and John Goshert, head of the county District Attorney’s criminal investigation division, so Elhajj could offer an apology. Both sides disagree over exactly what was said.

Perry hopes that the settlement sends “a message that will lead to sexual harassment training for police officers in the future,” said Autry. Some of the officers named in the lawsuit never received such training; others had received training regarding co-workers, he said.

Named in Perry’s lawsuit were Crone and fellow Middletown officers Benjamin Lucas, James Bennett and Dennis Morris, a member of the drug task force; task force officers Elhajj, Patrolman Keith Ocker of Derry Twp., Det. Jason Reber of Susquehanna Twp., Patrolman Ron Soutner of Swatara Twp. and Patrolman Regis Vogle of Penbrook; and task force supervisors Goshert and Todd Johnson, the force’s coordinator.

Reid says no to another term

Middletown Mayor Robert Reid told the Press & Journal he will not seek re-election when his term expires in 2013.

Reid’s face and name became recognizable worldwide during the 1979 accident that crippled the Unit-2 reactor at Three Mile Island. The accident occurred shortly after he was elected to his first term.

Reid was respected for his handling of the crisis, even when then Gov. Dick Thornburgh suggested pregnant women and children leave the area to avoid potential exposure to radiation.

He served as mayor until 2000 then returned to the office in 2006.

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