Borough councilman arrested and strip searched for complaining to police chief and mayor
Court/Assoc.: U.S. District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania
Attorneys/Firms: Mary Catherine Roper, Witold Walczak (ACLU-PA); Fred T. Magaziner, Irene Ayzenberg-Lyman (Dechert LLP)
The ACLU of Pennsylvania filed a federal lawsuit on October 6, 2011, on behalf of Gilberton Borough (Schuylkill County) Councilman Robert Wagner, who was arrested and strip-searched last summer after using profanity in a voicemail for the town's police chief complaining about unruly teenagers in his neighborhood.
On the evening of July 13, 2010, Wagner called Gilberton Police Chief Mark Kessler to complain that several teenagers were loudly racing quads and dirt bikes in front of his house and disturbing the entire neighborhood. Aware of Wagner's position on city council, neighbors complained to him about the dangerous activities of the teens and asked him to do something about the recurring problem.
Unable to reach Chief Kessler, Wagner left a voicemail, using profanity to describe the actions of the teens and to express his frustration with his local law enforcement and government officials. He then called Mayor Mary Lou Hannon and used similar language to describe his frustration about the unruly behavior of the teens in his neighborhood.
The following day, with the knowledge of the mayor, Chief Kessler arrested Wagner on two counts of misdemeanor harassment. Unable to post bail, Wagner was taken to Schuylkill County Prison, where he was processed and strip searched. Wagner spent about six hours in the prison, until his wife finally located him and posted bail. The charges against Wagner were dismissed on August 4, 2010.
In January 2012, a judgment was entered with the court in favor of Councilman Wagner in the amount of $15,000.