County wants out of lawsuit
Wrongly accused man files civil rights claim
An attorney for Blair County has filed a petition asking a U.S. district judge in Johnstown to dismiss a federal civil rights complaint in which a former student intern with the Hollidaysburg Area School District says he was falsely arrested last year for allegedly leaving threatening voicemails at several of the district’s schools.
Scott M. Vinosky was in the process last November of completing a Master of Education program at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
The curriculum included a six-credit, 600-hour internship with a school district.
His training was split between the Hollidaysburg Area High School and one of the district’s elementary schools.
Vinosky’s internship, however, was allegedly terminated because he made a call to Pennsylvania’s ChildLine after receiving information from a student, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit stated, “In accordance with mandatory reporting obligations, (Vinosky) immediately began the process of reporting this information to ChildLine.”
Hours after his ChildLine report, he was informed that he was being terminated at his elementary school, and, on Nov. 19, he was told the internship was being terminated.
On Nov. 20 and 21, threatening voicemails were left at five district schools.
Two school officials told Hollidaysburg Borough police they were “positive” the voice belonged to Vinosky.
The calls threatened that the “education system is going to change very quickly and very soon.”
Sensing the urgency of the threats, multiple area police departments swung into action, meeting with Blair County District Attorney Richard A. Consiglio, and eventually confronting Vinosky in his State College residence.
Despite denying that he had made the calls, Vinosky was arrested and taken to the Blair County Prison.
However, the lawsuit contends that just minutes after the first of the voicemail messages were received by the school district, Logan Township police took Javier Alberto Cantos, a former Hollidaysburg Area student, into custody.
Cantos, the lawsuit stated, told Logan police he had called the schools and “gave them a deadline to reallocate resources.”
Logan police, it is claimed, did not notify Hollidaysburg police, the lead investigators of the threats.
On Nov. 22, the Pennsylvania State Police issued a media advisory reporting Vinosky’s arrest.
The lawsuit, filed in July, listed 21 defendants, including police officers involved in the investigation and arrest, multiple police departments, three school district employees, the Blair County district attorney and Blair County.
U.S. District Judge Stephanie Haines has given the Blair DA and many of the defendants until mid-October to answer the civil rights complaint that was filed by Johnstown attorney Ronald P. Carnevali.
However, Blair County, through its attorney, Mary Lou Maierhofer of Altoona, on Thursday asked that the complaint against Blair County be dismissed.
That was the first response filed by any of the defendants.
Maierhofer stated in her petition that the only reason the county has been included in the legal action stems from allegations that Consiglio provided consultation and advice to officers investigating the threatening voicemails.
The lawsuit, she argued, contends the county is involved because it “operated, managed, directed, controlled and possessed supervisory and financial authority over the Office of District Attorney.”
She stated Vinosky is attempting to show that the county had a custom or policies that led to the false arrest, yet Maierhofer contended, “Vinosky does not allege any pattern of prior violations that would have placed Blair County on notice that it had an existing … policy that might be constitutionally deficient.”
She pointed out that as Blair DA, Consiglio was acting within his role as a prosecutor, and not as a policymaker for the county.
As such, she requested, Blair County should be removed from the lawsuit.
She also requested that Vinosky’s request for punitive or punishment damages be struck, noting such damages are not available under federal civil rights law.