State College, officers want riot lawsuit tossed

For the CDTNovember 25, 2013 

— State College and two of its police officers want a judge to dismiss a federal lawsuit brought by a Penn State student who claims he was mistreated during the riot that followed the firing of football coach Joe Paterno in 2011.

The borough and officers Martin Hanes and Michael Pieniazek contend in a document filed Monday in U.S. Middle District Court that Matthew Masser, of Newtown Square, is barred from arguing he should not have been arrested.

The student was charged with failure to disperse and disorderly conduct but the charges were dismissed in September 2012 under a procedure by which the defendant does not enter a plea but satisfies fines and costs. Masser subsequently had his record expunged.

He admits shortly after midnight on Nov. 10, 2011, he was on College Avenue during the protest that turned into a riot after the firing of Paterno.

He claimed he adhered to a police order to disperse when the two officers threw him against a mailbox, took his wallet out of a pocket, seized his student identification and told him he would be charged with a felony and thrown out of school.

The charges later filed by a summons were a misdemeanor and a summary offense

The defendants argue the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled resolving charges using the procedure Masser did does not result in successful termination.

That prevents a person from now contesting or re-litigating the charges, they said. The amount of force was not excessive because Masser was not injured, the officers claim.

The environment that night was potentially dangerous for students and officers trying to subdue the crowd, the court document stated.

Masser’s brief detention was necessary to ascertain his identity and to notify him charges would be forthcoming, it stated.

In addition, Hanes and Pieniazek claim they are entitled to immunity.

The suit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages to compensate Masser for being unlawfully detained, maliciously prosecuted, the victim of excessive force and retaliation.

The borough is accused of not properly training its police officers.

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