Penn responds to police violence claim

The University denied that its officers assaulted a Phila. cab driver

· March 16, 2014, 4:06 pm   ·  Updated March 17, 2014, 1:55 am

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Penn denied the claims of a lawsuit alleging excessive force by Penn Police in a response filed last week.

Philadelphia cab driver Saharo Sacko - who filed a lawsuit against the University and four unnamed Penn Police officers on Feb. 7 - is asking for more than $150,000 in damages, as well as legal costs. He is suing Penn for charges related to assault and battery, intentional infliction of severe emotional distress and excessive force.

Penn’s response, which was filed on Wednesday, denied all claims of verbal and physical assault by its officers.

“To the extent that [Sacko] contends that he was detained and/or physically restrained by Penn, Penn was within its rights to do so,” the response said.

The alleged assault occurred when Sacko, who had a passenger in his car, was pulled over for “alleged careless driving” near the 4200 block of Walnut Street on Feb. 12, 2012, according to the complaint that Sacko filed in federal court.

Sacko claims that one of the Penn Police officers physically assaulted him without any warning, pulling him out of his vehicle by his shoulder and violently throwing him against the trunk of the cab. Then, the complaint states, the officers struck Sacko on his back and shoulders.

“[Their] actions, and motivation for their actions, were conscience shocking ... and with such wanton and reckless disregard of the consequences as to show [their] deliberate indifference to the danger of harm and injury,” the complaint said.

Sacko claims that the officers attempted to cover up the alleged assault by asking his passenger to leave the scene before the alleged physical assault, which Penn also denies.

The University’s response claims that Sacko was following a Penn Police vehicle too closely in inclement weather, which caused his cab to skid on ice and almost hit the police vehicle. Sacko “then continued to drive erratically by swerving into the Penn vehicle” and he “became loud and boisterous and refused to present his driver’s license,” the response said.

After the alleged assault, Sacko received a ticket for careless driving, which was later dismissed by a Philadelphia Traffic Court, and another ticket for following too closely, which was appealed. Sacko’s complaint claims that he “did not commit any crimes on Feb. 12, 2012,” the day of the alleged assault.

Sacko has received 16 driving citations in Philadelphia between 2006 and 2013, according to online records from the Philadelphia Traffic Court Division. The tickets range from failure to use a seatbelt to operating without headlights. He was found guilty on four occasions and not guilty on nine of them.

On Oct. 3, 2005, Sacko pleaded guilty to a careless driving offense that occurred in April of that year.

The day after the alleged assault by Penn Police officers, Sacko was told he had a leg fracture at Mercy Philadelphia Hospital’s emergency room, according to his complaint. Sacko also claims that he was injured in his back and neck, and also suffered emotional damages.

Penn’s response to Sacko’s complaint only addressed some of the claims against the University - Penn addressed the other claims in its motion to dismiss some of the charges before trial.

The University’s motion to dismiss argued that Sacko “cannot establish a cause of action against Penn based exclusively on the actions of Penn Police Officers,” and that the University cannot be held liable.

“These allegations [against Penn] are nonfactual, conclusory and nonsensical even when considering the entire Complaint as a whole and reading the allegations in the light most favorable to [Sacko],” the motion said.

Penn declined to comment on the case due to its policy not to comment on ongoing litigation. Sacko’s lawyer on the federal case, Anthony Lopresti, and on the state case, Justin Bieber, did not respond to requests for comment.

Sacko previously filed a lawsuit against the University regarding the same incident in state court on Feb. 4, 2013. The case was later dismissed on preliminary objections.

The facts “describe a scuffle ... pursuant to a routine traffic stop,” Penn wrote in its response to Sacko’s complaint filed with the state.

Before the court dismissed the case, it ordered Charlie Hersh, the passenger in Sacko’s cab at the time, to testify. Penn objected, claiming that the “inaccurate information and false representation” about Penn and its officers “may improperly influence the witness.”

Hersh ultimately did not testify because the case was dismissed before he could do so.

Sacko has been involved in a number of other legal situations in the past.

He is currently on nine months probation, which began in July 2013, for a theft that took place on Jan. 19, 2013, according to court records. He was found guilty of theft, but not guilty of receiving stolen property.

Sacko has also sued car drivers in 2002, 2003, 2008 and 2011 for injuries resulting from motor vehicle accidents. Three of the cases were settled, according to Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas civil documents.

The fourth and most recent lawsuit was appealed by the defendants, Kathryn and Maryann Butler, when the court ruled in favor of Sacko and granted him over $7,000 from each of them. The case was later overturned in state court in a ruling against Sacko.

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