Mistaken identity lawsuit heads to resolution

HOLLIDAYSBURG – A civil lawsuit in a case of mistaken identity that landed an Antis Township woman in the Blair County Prison for two days has been sent to the Cambria County Court of Common Pleas for resolution.

The case involving Theresa Garman, a Blair County resident, was originally filed in Hollidaysburg because Garman was arrested and placed in the county prison by the Blair Township police chief.

In April, Blair County Judge Daniel J. Milliron dismissed the civil charges against Blair Township and its police department, noting the arrest was made because of a “facially valid warrant” issued through Cambria County and Cambria County Constable Terry S. Geibig.

The judge instructed the Pittsburgh attorney for Garman, who was mistakenly arrested, to file a new civil complaint.

The attorney, William Gagliardino, filed the amended complaint listing Cambria County and Geibig as the defendants.

The new complaint has started to make its way through the court system with preliminary objections filed by Cambria County’s attorney, Mary Lou Maierhofer, and the attorney for Geibig, Jessica Rhea.

In viewing the various new filings in the case, Milliron decided it should be transferred to Cambria County, pointing out the issues involving Blair County have been resolved.

Garman, who lives in Antis Township, Blair County, was involved in a nonreportable accident in Blair Township on July 18, 2012.

Blair Township Police Chief Roger White went to the scene.

He then discovered that an arrest warrant had been issued through Cambria County for a “Theresa Garman.”

Despite her protests, she was placed in the Blair County Prison.

As Blair and Cambria officials discovered, the person who was wanted was really a woman named “Theresa Gorman” of Mechanicsburg, who was charged in a 2006 private criminal complaint for passing two bad checks totaling $2,348 to the owner of Precious Metals and Diamonds Co. of Johnstown.

The civil lawsuit filed by Gagliardino charges that Garman’s rights under the Fourth, Eighth and 14th amendments to the Constitution were violated. It is also charged she was falsely imprisoned under Pennsylvania law.

The lawsuit is asking in excess of $50,000 damages for each of two counts against Cambria County and the constable.

Milliron dismissed most of the lawsuit in April noting that public entities such as counties, judges, district attorneys, police and the townships are protected by immunity.

The judge noted with respect to the original arrest by White, “The Court concludes that a reasonable official in these circumstances would have believed that probable cause existed for (Garman’s) arrest.”

The remaining issues involved in the lawsuit, he said, would best be handled by the Cambria County Court.

Meanwhile, the original “Theresa Gorman,” who allegedly passed the two bad checks, has never been arrested.

The bad checks were supposedly passed by Theresa Gorman, doing business as Gold Mine Coin and Jewelry of 57 W. Main St., Mechanicsburg.

The checks were sent to Precious Metals and Diamonds of Johnstown, the company that initiated the private prosecution.

Both companies are now under different ownership, but an employee of the Johnstown business said she remembers the incident but never knew if the company eventually got its money.

The telephone number for the Gold Mine Coin and Jewelry led to a new firm called Mobile Merchandise, and a spokesman for that business, Kevin Shary, remembered that years ago a woman by the name of Theresa Gorman and a male were involved in buying items and passing bad checks. The male, he remembered, was the subject of an investigation, but he didn’t know the final outcome.

The state court records for Cumberland County show a Theresa Gorman charged at the magisterial district court level for non-payment of taxes.

Cambria County court records do not show anyone by the name of Theresa Gorman being charged with bad checks.

Gagliardino could not be reached Thursday.

Mirror Staff Writer Phil Ray is at 946-7468.