By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer
SOUTH PYMATUNING TOWNSHIP —
Fresh from his victory in criminal court fighting charges that he disrupted a South Pymatuning Township supervisors’ meeting, Kurt D. Toth has filed new charges in an amended civil suit related to the same incident.
Toth has added South Pymatuning Township as a defendant – he initially sued only patrolman Andreu Foriska – and levied charges that the township violated his free-speech rights, and that Foriska maliciously prosecuted him, abused the criminal process and committed battery against him.
His previous complaint included charges that Foriska violated his free-speech rights, retaliated against him for exercising those rights and assaulted him.
The events arose from a June 12, 2012, supervisors’ meeting when Foriska removed Toth from the meeting at Taserpoint as Toth was questioning the supervisors.
Foriska charged Toth in criminal court and Toth went to trial Aug. 13. Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Thomas R. Dobson dismissed charges of disorderly conduct and failing to disperse after the prosecution rested its case, and found Toth not guilty of disrupting a lawful meeting.
Dobson said Toth, Foriska and then-Supervisor Michael Nashtock shared blame for the unpleasantness at the meeting: Toth for not showing respect or restraint; Nashtock, who was chairman, for not controlling the meeting or Foriska; and Foriska for usurping Nashtock’s role and stepping in when he was not needed.
While Dobson’s comments were made at a criminal trial in a state court, and Toth’s civil suit is before a federal judge, the amended complaint incorporates the supervisors’ alleged lack of strict control of meetings into the allegations of the suit.
The suit also alleges the township did not properly train Foriska as to his role when he is assigned to attend a supervisors’ meeting, and failed to “control” him when he stepped in and removed Toth.
The complaint also alleges Foriska filed the criminal case “to create leverage against (Toth) to withdraw his federal complaint in exchange for the reduction of charges as part of a plea bargain.”
Foriska filed the criminal charges June 25, 2012, three days after Toth initiated his civil suit.
The township and Foriska will have an opportunity to respond to the amended complaint, which was filed Oct. 1.