The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

February 21, 2014

Inmate, city, police ask for judgment in civil case

By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer

SHARON — The city of Sharon and a man its police department arrested each have asked a federal judge to rule on the man’s civil rights suit.

Percy L. Godfrey, who is serving a state prison sentence as a result of that arrest, said he was subject to excessive force and cruel and unusual punishment and denied due process.

The defendants – the city, Sharon Police Department, patrolman Marc Adamo and Cpl. Mark Johnson – have denied the allegations and accuse Godfrey of what basketball fans know as flopping, or acting out an injury that has not been suffered.

Godfrey, 33, 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 of drugs 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 found Godfrey not guilty of aggravated assault and attempted institutional vandalism.

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

Godfrey does not argue that he is falsely arrested, but said the arrest was “based on a false allegation.”

Adamo put on the handcuffs “excessively tight” and choked Godfrey to unconsciousness, said Godfrey, who is seeking $50,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.

The defendants said the suit should be dismissed because Godfrey is attempting to attack his conviction in federal court without having sought an appeal in state court.

The fact that Godfrey was convicted of two counts shows police had probable cause for the arrest, they said.

Godfrey’s claim of excessive force and cruel and unusual punishment should fail because there is no evidence other than his assertion that he was choked, and Adamo’s actions – including pushing a handcuffed Godfrey back into a cruiser – were the result of Godfrey kicking the cruiser, trying to get out of the car and kicking Adamo in the chest, the defendants said.

State law “provides that police officers are permitted to utilize whatever force is necessary to effect an arrest and furthermore, that they have no obligation to retreat in the face of resistance,” the defendant said.

Godfrey said he was choked after his arrest in the 500 block of Spruce Avenue. Patrolman Adam Zazado said Godfrey did not complain that he had been choked until he was taken to Shenango Valley Regional Lockup, Farrell.

While walking to the cells, Godfrey said he could not breathe and “became limp attempting to give the impression that he was passing out,” Zazado said in his report.

Godfrey lay on the floor and had to be carried to a cell, Zazado said.

Later, Godfrey said he was diabetic, couldn’t breathe and demanded to see a nurse, Zazado said.

An ambulance was called, but Godfrey would not cooperate with the medics, Zazado said. Godfrey was taken to a local hospital and complained that his wrist was broken and that he couldn’t breathe, Zazado said.

X-rays were taken of Godfrey; he was released that night.

Godfrey had settled down and was cooperative when he was returned to the lockup, Zazado said.

During the booking process, Godfrey told Adamo “that he was just salty and that he didn’t mean anything by it,” Zazado said.

Godfrey also offered to be informant in drug buys, Zazado said.