Ex-Burgettstown police officer sues, claims retaliation
A former Burgettstown police officer claims in a federal civil rights lawsuit that she was the target of a malicious criminal prosecution because she complained about a hidden video camera that may have recorded her dressing and undressing at the police station.
Amber Price says in the 75-page lawsuit filed Friday that former Burgettstown police Chief George Roberts and Washington County District Attorney Steve Toprani conspired with a county detective and two state police officers to violate her rights. Toprani and state police representatives couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.
Robert Clarke, the lawyer for the borough, said he’s confident there was no connection between the video camera and Price’s prosecution.
Price has been a defendant in at least four citizen lawsuits claiming she and other police violated their civil rights. Two of those lawsuits deal with a case in which state police charged Price with lying in an affidavit used to obtain a search warrant.
Price and Smith police Officer Michael North stopped Harold Huber and reported they found drugs in his car. Price signed an affidavit for a search of Huber’s house saying she saw him leave the house shortly before the traffic stop. Price admits she didn’t see Huber leave the house, and says in her lawsuit that North typed the affidavit and she signed it without noticing the statement.
Huber claims in his civil rights lawsuit that North and Price stopped him without probable cause, and did so specifically so they could search his home. The other lawsuit by Teresa Basile and her son, Adam Huber, involves the officers’ search of the Huber home.
State police in February 2009 charged Price with conspiracy, official repression and swearing to a false statement. A district judge dismissed charges in March 2009, but state police re-filed the charges and added a conspiracy and false swearing charge. The district attorney withdrew the charges in September 2009.
Price was suspended from the force when the criminal charges were filed and her career effectively is over, the lawsuit says. The borough disbanded its police department May 1.
Price says Toprani pursued the charges because she pressed for an investigation of the hidden camera she discovered at the police station in November 2008.
Price claims that Roberts and Toprani installed the camera to catch another officer having sex. Clarke said the district attorney had the camera installed for security reasons, and that it was placed to record people entering and leaving the police offices, which shared a hallway with the borough’s municipal offices.