The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

July 16, 2014

Judge clears cops of civil rights wrongs

SHARON — A federal judge on Tuesday granted judgment to Sharon police and against a man who said policemen violated his civil rights.

Percy L. Godfrey Jr. had been seeking $50,000 in compensatory and punitive damages, but the defendants – the police department, patrolman Marc Adamo and Cpl. Mark Johnson – accused Godfrey of acting out an injury he had not suffered.

Godfrey, 34, formerly of Sharon, was arrested Aug. 19, 2012, in the 600 block of New Castle Avenue for allegedly stealing a water heater from a vacant home, police said.

During the arrest, Godfrey kicked a police cruiser door and window, tried to kick Adamo and threatened to harm Adamo and his family, police said.

Police said they found on Godfrey a pipe, a plastic spoon with residue on it and a metal rod believed to be used as a push rod, all for the ingesting and/or maintenance of drug paraphernalia.

Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Thomas R. Dobson ordered the withdrawal of charges of burglary, receiving stolen property and possessing instruments of crime, while a jury in August 2013 found Godfrey not guilty of aggravated assault and attempted institutional vandalism.

However, the jury found Godfrey guilty of terroristic threats and possession of drug paraphernalia, and Dobson sentenced him to 9 months to 2 years in prison. Godfrey remains in prison, according to the state Department of Corrections.

Godfrey alleged he was subjected to excessive force and cruel and unusual punishment and denied due process.

U.S. District Court Judge Terrence F. McVerry, Pittsburgh, turned aside the allegations based on the report and recommendation of Magistrate Judge Maureen P. Kelly.

Kelly said case law has established that Godfrey could not recover damages unless his conviction had been overturned, such as on appeal.

Godfrey did not appeal his conviction.

Kelly also concluded that police had probable cause to arrest Godfrey for burglary and aggravated assault based on the evidence they had the night of the incident.

The count of excessive force fails because Godfrey did not cooperate with police and the response of policemen to his conduct was “reasonable,” Kelly said.

She also said that Godfrey provided no medical evidence to support his claims that Adamo used excessive force.

“Had Adamo placed the handcuffs on (Godfrey) so tightly as to break his wrist and/or choked him until he was unconscious, there certainly would have been some physical manifestations of Adamo’s actions,” Kelly said.

However, there was no evidence of marks or bruises that would support his claims of injury, Kelly said.

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