APD detective investigating insurance claim

HOLLIDAYSBURG – An Altoona Police Department detective is conducting an internal investigation into a woman’s statement that she was told by a city officer to file a protection-from-abuse complaint to support an insurance claim for a damaged door.

Her story, told to Senior Judge Thomas G. Peoples on Aug. 1, caused a firestorm because Peoples, who has often been critical of the department’s handling of PFA cases, became upset at the idea an officer may have been encouraging a person to commit insurance fraud.

The judge asked that the claims by the woman be referred to Blair County President Judge Jolene G. Kopriva, who ordered that a transcript of the hearing be prepared and forwarded to Altoona Police Chief Janice Freehling.

Kopriva reported Thursday afternoon that Freehling ordered an internal investigation to be conducted by Altoona Detective Matthew Depaolis.

Peoples said he wanted a report back from the police department in seven days, which would have been Thursday, but the woman who made the complaint in PFA court decided to retain Altoona attorney Thomas Dickey to accompany her to the meeting.

As a result, the meeting was continued until today, Kopriva stated.

Freehling was not available for comment on Thursday.

The transcript of the controversial PFA case has been filed in the Blair County Prothonotary’s Office.

The PFA hearing before Peoples was one of 19 he had scheduled for Aug. 1, and as in many of the cases that come before him, the woman, Jamey Keith of Altoona, said she wanted to withdraw the complaint against her boyfriend.

While she stated in her original complaint the boyfriend damaged the door and “now we all [she and her children] are in fear for our safety,” she went on to tell Peoples her boyfriend was never violent toward her or the children, and she couldn’t understand why police insisted she obtain a PFA.

“He never put his hands on me or my children,” she stated.

The judge stated, “What I’m understanding that they suggested to you is fraud.”

The judge called the situation” troublesome.”

“Well, I’ll tell you, I’m about up to here with them,” said the judge.

“I want all of this to go to the president judge. I think she thinks the whole thing is fixed. Yeah, it’s all repaired. Everything is working fine. It’s broken in six or eight places, and this is a classic example of what I’m talking about,” Peoples said.

Kopriva said last week that she has been sending transcripts of complaints against the department aired in the Peoples’ court to Freehling, noting that, “We are trying to create a communications loop so we can all do a good job.”

Lt. Jeffrey Pratt commented on the case last week, stating officers did not mention insurance to the woman but did attempt to help her obtain a PFA.

Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.