ERIE, Pa. (CN) — Taking aim at a local police chief embroiled in a department-harassment scandal, a Pennsylvania grandmother claims in a federal complaint that the chief’s abuse of his office landed her behind bars.
Patricia Grubbs filed the April 28 complaint in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, saying her ordeal traces back to the personal vendetta that South Connellsville Police Chief Russell Miller Jr. harbors against supporters of the borough’s volunteer fire department.
Miller, as reported by the Herald-Standard, was charged late last year with a misdemeanor count of official oppression.
According to an affidavit of probable cause filed by Fayette County Chief Detective John Marshall, the 46-year-old chief ordered a member of his department to cite a borough resident for harassment, although no crime had been committed, because she had voiced certain concerns at a borough council meeting.
Grubbs says this type of conduct, suppressing of the constitutional rights of borough citizens, has marked Miller’s entire tenure as chief of police.
“His actions of fabricating evidence and maliciously prosecuting these individuals established a pattern throughout his term,” the complaint states.
Grubbs says she “fell victim to Miller’s plan” last year in part because of her family’s active involvement with the local fire department, and also because of her daughter’s tumultuous relationship with a man Grubbs as having an “unusually close relationship with Miller and other borough police officers.”
The complaint notes that Miller filed charged Grubbs last year with terroristic threats, disorderly conduct and harassment, but that the police chief “completely fabricated” the events described in his affidavit of probable cause.
Prosecutors abandoned the charges against her this past March, “consistent with Mrs. Grubbs’ claims that the charges filed against her were false,” the complaint states.
Representatives for the South Connellsville borough office directed a request for comment on Grubbs’ lawsuit to their attorney. The lawyer has not returned a phone call seeking comment.
Grubbs seeks punitive damages, alleging civil conspiracy, malicious prosecution and other charges. She is represented by Michael Hammond, Joseph Dalfonso and Steven Toprani, all of Canonsburg firm Dodaro, Matta and Cambest.