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posted November 20, 2017

It wasn't pot, it was hibiscus, couple says

Nov. 15, 2017 Butler Eagle, News Extra
BUFFALO TWP — A senior citizen couple is suing Nationwide Insurance and three Buffalo Township police officers who they say wrongfully ransacked their home looking for marijuana plants that were really hibiscus.

Attorney Al Lindsay held a news conference on Thursday to detail the Oct. 7 ordeal of township residents Edward and Audrey Cramer, who are in their 60s.

In October, according to the lawsuit, a neighbor's tree fell on the Cramers' home and caused damage. The couple contacted their homeowner's insurance carrier, Nationwide, to come and assess the damage.

The lawsuit claims that upon the assessment, insurance agent Jonathan Yeamans asked Edward what was inside of a nearby temporary shed. After Edward left to run errands, the lawsuit says Yeamans “reentered the property and took photographs of the flowering hibiscus plants in the Cramers' backyard.

Yeamans then sent the photos of what he though were marijuana plants to the Freeport police, who forwarded them to the Buffalo Township police.

The lawsuit claims that Audrey explained to police that the plants they were seeking were flowering hibiscus, which vaguely resemble marijuana, but was told by police that her husband had lied to her about raising hibiscus and was actually raising marijuana.

The lawsuit said Audrey, 66, sat in the back of a hot police car for 4.5 hours with her hands tightly cuffed behind her back.

When her husband arrived 30 minutes after police, he had guns pointed at him and was also cuffed and placed into the back of a cruiser, the lawsuit says.

Buffalo police officers then ransacked the house looking for marijuana, causing various damage to the home's interior and causing emotional stress to the Cramers, the lawsuit says.

In addition, the lawsuit claims that the Cramers received notification later in October from Nationwide Insurance saying that marijuana was found on the property, “and if they failed to remove the nonexistent marijuana plants, Nationwide would cancel their insurance policy.”

The complaint filed in county court by the Cramers alleges insurance bad faith, defamation, invasion of privacy, negligent infliction of emotional distress and intentional infliction of emotional distress against Nationwide and Yeamans,
The allegations against Buffalo Township Police Sgt. Scott Hess include invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault, battery, false imprisonment, false arrest and excessive force.

Buffalo Township faces civil rights violations by the police department
posted November 04, 2016

Soldier for the Constitution, Al Lindsay, fights for clients

Tom Victoria  Eagle Staff Writer 
Soldier for the Constitution, Attorney Al Lindsay, 70, fights for clients

Butler Business Matters
Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Butler attorney Al Lindsay is juggling cases that are receiving local, regional and national attention.

In quick succession this spring, Lindsay went from representing plaintiffs in the defamation case against former Butler County Commissioner Jim Eckstein to seeking an overturning of the Jerry Sandusky conviction.

Most recently, Lindsay defended a Plum school teacher accused of intimidating a witness.

When the Eckstein case was declared a mistrial April 29, Lindsay had to resume working on the Sandusky case May 2.

“If you’re a trial attorney, you live on borrowed time,” he said.

Lindsay said attorneys should be prepared to adjust their personal schedules and maintain focus. “I’m never in a situation when I’m not thinking about a case,” he said, citing the example of pondering legal issues while doing mundane tasks such as mowing grass.

The Eckstein case ended in a mistrial. A retrial is set for September.

Hearings on the Sandusky case are set for August.

Plum teacher Drew Zoldak recently was found not guilty in Allegheny County court of intimidating a student who accused another teacher of having sex with her.

Lindsay said it’s a great honor to be asked to represent someone needing legal help. “It’s a sacred trust,” he said. “It’s a very serious responsibility.”

Lindsay said Zoldak never made any comment about the student, but the teacher should not have been charged even if he did. “It still would not amount to a crime,” Lindsay said.

He said Zoldak was unjustly bunched together with the teachers accused of more serious crimes. Lindsay credited the jurors for being astute. “We had a wonderful jury,” he said.

Lindsay said a challenge in high profile cases is the media often puts forth a story inconsistent with the facts. “We find the narrative is wrong,” he said.

Lindsay recalled a case when he defended Brentwood police Officer John Vojtas, who was one of three officers charged in the 1995 death of Johnny Gammage in Pittsburgh. According to Lindsay, Vojtas was implicated in the death despite being out of the fray upon being injured. “There was no question my client was going to be acquitted,” Lindsay said.

Vojtas was found not guilty. The case against two other officers ended in a mistrial twice.

Lindsay said the cause of death was misreported initially as chest compression when it was actually cardiac arrest.He explained the circumstances — five white men involved in a fight with a black man who died — made the case highly charged. “To this day, people are complaining,” Lindsay said.

The Sandusky case, in which the former Penn State assistant football coach was convicted of child molestation, has received long-term national attention.
“People have a salacious interest in this stuff,” Lindsay said.

The attorney said he is convinced of Sandusky’s innocence, but conceded it would not be easy overturning a conviction.“It’s an uphill battle,” Lindsay said. He blamed the conviction on bad representation.

Lindsay said innocent people often have problems when they are accused of a crime. “They think the system works,” he said.Lindsay said Sandusky can have a fair trial the second time around.

He stressed having proper legal representation makes the difference. “It’s not a justice delivery system,” Lindsay said. “It’s a dispute resolution system.”

In the Eckstein case, former county Commissioner Dale Pinkerton, county human resources director Lori Altman and her husband, state Trooper Scott Altman, accuse Eckstein of spreading a corruption rumor about them.
Lindsay is representing the Altmans.

He summed up the point of the defamation case: “The importance of honesty in political discourse.”

Lindsay said a small case is no less important than a more prominent one because it is vital to the client.
According to Lindsay, there is a main reason he takes on a specific case. “I believe in the cause,” he said. “I truly believe in the defense.”

Lindsay respects his clients. “I like all my clients,” he said. “I’m the luckiest attorney in America. I happen to get all the good ones.”

There are times he bows out of a case. He stopped short of saying he drops clients he catches lying. “There are many cases declined because of an issue with a client,” Lindsay said. He doesn’t try to persuade a client on a course of action such as accepting a plea agreement or civil settlement. “The clients run the show,” Lindsay said.

Lindsay, 70, of Buffalo Township, who has a 44-year career, became the first full-time assistant district attorney in Butler County in 1972. He was appointed an assistant U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania in 1975. In 1980, Lindsay entered private practice.

He prefers criminal cases, which have simpler verdicts, to civil ones. “Civil cases are generally more complicated,” Lindsay said.

Lindsay’s associate, Andrew Salemme, has observed the veteran attorney in action since joining the Lindsay Law Firm in February. “It’s been a marvelous learning experience,” Salemme said. “He has an excellent reputation. There’s a reason for that.” Salemme said not every lawyer has Lindsay’s skills or panache.
The younger attorney said he hoped he could be as effective in the courtroom someday.

On Lindsay’s part, the one thing he does not want to be is boring. He said some attorneys seem to not care if anyone is listening to them during a trial.

“You try to do the best for your clients,” Lindsay said. He said the role of a defense attorney is to help those suffering an injustice.

“We’re soldiers for the Constitution,” Lindsay said.
posted November 01, 2016

Suspended Teacher Found Not guilty

Associated Press
Suspended teacher found not guilty
He was accused of intimidation

Butler Eagle, June 14, 2016
By Associated Press


PITTSBURGH — A suspended Plum High School teacher has been found not guilty of intimidating a female student who accused another teacher of having sex with her, allegedly by pointing out the girl in class last year.

The Allegheny County jury deliberated for less than an hour before acquitting Drew Zoldak, 41, of a single witness intimidation count.

Zoldak, a forensics teacher at Plum was arrested last year as police and, eventually, a grand jury investigated alleged sexual misconduct involving three other male teachers and three female students.

Zoldak’s accuser — who also told police she had a sexual relationship with Joseph Ruggieri, 39, the teachers’ union vice president — testified she felt intimidated when Zoldak pointed her out in class in April 2015.

She testified Zoldak was explaining to his class that he missed their previous session because he had to meet with detectives — who he called “men in suits” — and gestured toward her by moving his head and saying, “Because of her.”

Several students called by the defense testified they felt Zoldak’s comments were innocuous.

Defense attorney Alexander Lindsay Jr. of Butler argued to the jury on Monday that, even if the incident occurred the way prosecutors described it, they hadn’t proved Zoldak was trying to intimidate the girl into not cooperating with the Ruggieri investigation.

Ruggieri has since pleaded guilty and is serving two to five years in prison. Another teacher, Jason Cooper, 39, also has pleaded guilty to having sex with a different female student and is serving 18 months to three years in prison. Former substitute teacher and athletic coach Michael Cinefra is awaiting trial on charges he had sex with yet another student. He has pleaded not guilty.

Butler Eagle. June 14, 2016
posted November 01, 2016

Jerry Sandusky Seeks New Trial

Kris Maher, WSJ
Former Penn State Coach Jerry Sandusky Seeks a New Trial

Lawyer argues that missteps in the child sex abuse trial led to the coach’s conviction

Kris Maher, WSJ
Thursday, August 11, 2016

Four years after he was convicted of child sex abuse, former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky is arguing that serious missteps by prosecutors and defense lawyers are grounds for a new trial.

Mr. Sandusky’s current lawyer, Alexander Lindsay, has laid out a broad argument for overturning the June 2012 conviction in court filings. He compared the case, which shook the college-sports world, to a “modern day Salem Witch Trial.”

A host of factors including a media frenzy that prejudged Mr. Sandusky before the trial began “resulted in transforming an innocent man into one of the country’s most infamous ‘child predators,’” Mr. Lindsay wrote.

Judge John Cleland, who presided over the trial, has agreed to hear testimony on several of Mr. Lindsay’s claims, including that a prosecutor lied at trial about not knowing the identity of an alleged victim and that defense lawyers also knew the name but failed to call him to testify to rebut abuse allegations. Mr. Lindsay also claims that prosecutors tainted the grand jury process by illegally leaking information.

The judge has scheduled three days of hearings, beginning Friday in Centre County Court in Bellefonte, Pa.

Wes Oliver, a law professor at Duquesne University, said that while courts rarely grant new trials, the “substantial claims” by Mr. Sandusky’s lawyer put his chances “within the realm of possibility.”

Mr. Lindsay also claims that the eight young men who testified against Mr. Sandusky made allegations of sexual abuse only after being pressured by investigators or coached by therapists and attorneys, who later negotiated settlements for the men with Pennsylvania State University.

Under Pennsylvania law, courts can grant a new trial for “ineffectiveness of counsel” if a person who has been convicted can demonstrate a reasonable likelihood that their lawyer’s incompetence led to the verdict. Mr. Lindsay argues that Mr. Sandusky’s former lawyer, Joe Amendola, doomed the defense with a series of blunders.

Among them, according to Mr. Lindsay, was Mr. Amendola’s telling the jury in his opening statement that the evidence against his client was “overwhelming”; allowing Mr. Sandusky to be interviewed by Bob Costas on NBC with little or no preparation; and not calling Mr. Sandusky to testify after promising jury members they would hear from him.

During the trial, prosecutors played the Costas interview, in which Mr. Sandusky hesitated before saying he wasn’t sexually attracted to boys, and they noted Mr. Sandusky didn’t testify at his own trial.
Mr. Amendola didn’t respond to a request for comment. He has said he didn’t have enough time to prepare adequately for trial.

Jeffrey Johnson, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, which prosecuted the case under a prior administration, said the office stands by the trial’s outcome. “We feel strongly that Mr. Sandusky’s claims are without merit,” he said. Mr. Sandusky was convicted on 45 of 48 counts related to child sex abuse in June 2012. He is serving a 30-to-60-year sentence at a prison in western Pennsylvania. In 2014, the state Supreme Court declined to review a far more limited appeal by another attorney for Mr. Sandusky, who is 72. His claim of innocence continues to stir anger among victim advocates. “Every time this story is in the news and the facts of the case are questioned, it’s harmful to these young men who were incredibly brave and came forward,” said Jennifer Storm,Pennsylvania’s official victim advocate.

One of Mr. Lindsay’s arguments centers on the handling of an unidentified alleged victim that an assistant football coach said he saw being abused in a Penn State shower by Mr. Sandusky in 2001.

Mr. Lindsay argues that the identity of the person referred to as Victim #2 at trial was known to both prosecutors and defense lawyers, and that Mr. Amendola made a serious error by not calling the young man to testify to refute the assistant coach, a key prosecution witness. He also argues that Mr. Amendola should have called for a mistrial when prosecutor Joe McGettigan said during his closing argument that the identity of the young man wasn’t known.

Mr. Amendola’s former co-counsel Karl Rominger said in an affidavit that he believes Mr. McGettigan lied about not knowing the alleged victim’s identity. “Everyone knew the identity of the second victim,” Mr. Rominger wrote.

Mr. McGettigan said in an interview that he still isn’t certain about the identity of Victim #2. “The statement I made in closing was accurate then and is accurate now,” he said. He added, “I have no doubt about Jerry Sandusky’s guilt and that he was the most prolific pedophile that I’ve encountered.”

It isn’t clear whether the judge will hear testimony on an allegation that the attorney general’s office leaked grand jury material in early 2011 to locate additional victims.

Mr. Lindsay has argued that the grand jury was then investigating abuse allegations by a single young man and that prosecutors considered the case weak. The leak resulted in a newspaper article and led investigators to more accusers, while creating a “lynch mob” mentality in Centre County, where Penn State is located, Mr. Lindsay alleged in a filing.

Write to Kris Maher at kris.maher@wsj.com
posted April 04, 2016

County, CYS staffer linked to rape case

Tom Victoria
County, CYS staffer linked to rape case
Girl placed in suspect’s care

By Tom Victoria
Eagle Staff Writer

Friday, April 1, 2016

Butler County is being sued in federal court for a Children and Youth Services caseworker allegedly placing a Butler girl in the care of the employee’s relative, a Rimersburg man, who now is charged with raping that child.

Thomas Eugene Curry, 65, is accused of raping the girl, who was 10 at the time, in his Clarion County home numerous times in 2009 and 2010. He faces 1,981 charges in that county.

Although the girl was returned to her mother’s Butler residence in February 2010 after being placed in the Currys’ care in April 2009, the child didn’t tell her mother about the alleged incidents until 2014.

Under the lawsuit filed Oct. 6, 2015 in U.S. District Court, the victim’s mother on her own behalf and her daughter’s, is suing Curry, his wife, Pamela Curry, Butler County and Butler CYS caseworker Jennifer Olexsak.

The lawsuit alleges Olexsak abused her position by placing the child with Thomas Eugene Curry, who is related to Olexsak. Olexsak did not respond to phone and e-mail messages. Charlie Johns, CYS director, and county solicitor Mike English would not comment. Both referred questions to the Pittsburgh law firm JonesPassodelis.

Attorney Jeff Cohen of JonesPassodelis declined to comment on the specifics of the case. However, Cohen said there are motions by the county and the Currys to dismiss the case. Cohen said the defendants are awaiting a ruling on the motions. “There is no deadline by which a decision has to be made,” Cohen said. Pittsburgh attorney Stanley Greenfield, who represents the Currys, could not be reached for comment.

Butler attorney Al Lindsay, who represents the girl and her mother, said his client’s civil rights were violated by CYS’ actions. “It was the agency that facilitated that placement,” Lindsay said.

The lawsuit alleges there was a violation of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because the girl was placed in danger by the state as a result of the placement in the Currys’ care.

According to the lawsuit, “Olexsak, a state actor, violated the (girl’s) right to personal security and bodily integrity.” The civil complaint accuses Olexsak of intentionally slanting her report with false allegations, including neglect, to effect the removal of the girl from her mother’s care and placed with the caseworkers’ relatives instead of foster parents.

The lawsuit alleges the abuse began “almost immediately” after the girl was placed in the couple’s custody on April 18, 2009. The lawsuit’s other counts are assault, battery, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress and civil conspiracy.

According to the lawsuit, Pamela Curry also falsely claimed the girl’s mother was guilty of child abuse preceding the placement of the child in the Curry residence.

The lawsuit alleges Pamela Curry knew her husband was abusing the girl due to the frequency of the abuse and that it occurred in her home. According to the lawsuit, “Pamela Curry was aware of but chose to ignore Thomas Curry’s horrific actions.” Thomas Curry is accused of threatening the girl to remain quiet about his alleged abuse of her.

The Currys also allegedly restricted the girl’s communication with her mother and another relative. And they allegedly lied that the girl was upset by the mother’s and other relative’s attempts to contact her. The lawsuit alleges the victim continues to suffer physical and mental injuries, including seizures, depression, anxiety and humiliation.

The girl’s mother is not seeking a specific monetary amount. The lawsuit asks for “all damages available under law, including, but not limited to, compensatory damages, interest and costs.”

New Bethlehem police on Jan. 22 filed the criminal charges against Thomas Curry for alleged incidents that occurred over the entire time the girl was in the care of the couple, which was before and after the time she was sent back into her mother’s custody. Clarion County Assistant District Attorney Drew Welsh said the criminal charges cover incidents occurring between 2009 and 2013.

During a forensic interview observed by police, the girl stated the abuse occurred roughly four times a week in Curry’s residence. Welsh said the number of counts were based on the accumulated time the girl stayed in the Currys’ house.

“We just calculated out 208,” he said, referring to the total number of alleged sexual assaults. Curry is charged with 208 felony 1 counts of rape of a child, 208 felony 1 counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, 208 counts of felony 2 sexual assault, and hundreds of other charges. Welsh said there is only one count of corruption of minors because that charge is a course of conduct.

Curry initially was charged with 3,224 counts. Among the charges subsequently withdrawn were numerous counts of aggravated indecent assault without consent and kidnapping for ransom. He is accused of repeatedly threatening the girl to keep quiet about the abuse. One of those alleged incidents was described in the criminal complaint.

According to the affidavit, “Curry placed a gun to the (girl’s) head after he chipped her tooth raping her ... she hit her tooth on the headboard of the bed. Curry told the (girl) to tell everyone she chipped her tooth at Walmart.” According to the affidavit, the girl stated Pamela Curry was not home or outside the house when the abuse occurred. “We have no evidence of her directly observing anything,” Welsh said.

The lawsuit only covers the time frame of the CYS placement from April 2009 to February 2010.