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Police, district respond to lawsuit over school threat

Former student intern Vinosky brings nine civil charges, including false arrest

Hollidaysburg Borough police said in a response to a federal lawsuit that they arrested a former student intern with the Hollidaysburg Area School District for leaving threatening voicemails on district phones based on information from two district employees.

However, in their response, the pair of school employees denied they were “positive” in their identifications of Scott M. Vinosky’s voice.

Vinosky of State College was arrested in November 2019 and spent a night in the Blair County Prison before he was released on bail and charges were dropped after it became apparent that Javier Alberto Cantos Jr., a former Hollidaysburg Area High School student, had confessed to leaving the messages.

Last summer, Cantos pleaded guilty to charges of terroristic threats and risking a catastrophe and was sentenced to a term in a state correctional institution.

Vinosky, through attorneys Ronald P. Carnevali Jr. and Toby D. McIlwain of Johnstown, filed a civil lawsuit in late 2020 against the Hollidaysburg and Allegheny Township police departments, a state trooper and two school district employees who told police that the voice on the messages was Vinosky’s.

Vinosky has brought nine civil charges, including false arrest, malicious prosecution, false imprisonment and negligent infliction of emotional distress against the defendants.

The investigation was led by now-retired Hollidaysburg Chief Rodney B. Estep Jr. and by borough Patrol Officer Allen Fochler.

Upon reports of the voicemails, Fochler recorded the messages left at the Charles W. Longer Elementary and the junior and senior high schools, all in Hollidaysburg.

The message gave a deadline that the Hollidaysburg district must “reallocate its resources” or “change is going to happen very quickly and very soon.”

The deadline for change was 5 p.m. Nov. 22, 2019, about 36 hours from the time the messages were recorded.

As Fochler was recording the call at the senior high school, Principal Maureen Letcher “within seconds” indicated she knew the voice, according to court filings.

According to the complaint, she asked a guidance counselor, Hully Hoover, who was one of Vinosky’s supervisors during his internship, to listen to the recording.

The lawsuit stated the two employees told Fochler they were “positive” the voice was that of Vinosky.

In their answers to the lawsuit, both Letcher and Hoover denied they were “positive” in their identifications of Vinosky’s voice.

Hollidaysburg police, in addressing that same charge, stated, “It is admitted that Letcher and Hoover told Officer Fochler that they recognized the voice on the voice message belonged to (Vinosky).

The police answer went on to explain that Fochler “relied upon the report of Letcher and Hoover that they could identify the voice on the message.”

The police are denying that at that point they knew the information was false.

In addition, police claim in their filing that they didn’t know that Cantos had told Logan Township police that he made those calls at the time of Vinosky’s arrest.

This year, U.S. District Judge Stephanie Haines in Johnstown ruled that Vinosky can sue, but she dismissed civil charges against Logan Township police officers and former Blair County District Attorney Richard A. Consiglio.

The case in the past couple of weeks has reached the point where the remaining defendants were required to answer the lawsuit.

Allegheny Township Po­­­lice Chief Leo Berg, became involved in the case because Foot of Ten Elementary is in Allegheny Township.

State police became involved because Frankstown Elementary is in an area covered by the state.

Throughout the police response to the lawsuit, prepared by attorney Andrew W. Norfleet of Harrisburg, it stated, “Officer Fochler relied on the truthfulness of information provided by Letcher and Hoover.”

Another point made in the lawsuit was that the school district’s tech department quickly determined the number from which the calls came.

The answer filed by Hollidaysburg police denied that contention, noting that police were not aware of that fact.

The lawsuit also contended that Estep “was able to utilize law enforcement investigatory tools, which connected the identified telephone number to Cantos.”

The police answer denies that, and states, “Proof of the same is demanded.”

The answer also confirms the lawsuit’s contentions that no effort was made to contact Cantos or his employer.

Berg assisted Fochler in the investigation of the messages and the lawsuit stated he should have known the voicemails originated from a telephone number “not associated with (Vinosky).”

In his answer to the lawsuit, filed by attorney Paul D. Krepps of Pittsburgh, that contention is denied.

The lawsuit claims Berg accused Vinosky, who denied the charges, of lying and stated, “he knew that (Vinosky) had made the telephone calls and left the voicemail messages.”

In his answer, Berg admitted speaking to Vinosky, but denied calling him a liar.

Now that the charges in the lawsuit have been answered by the defendants, the next step will be a case management conference which has been scheduled by the judge for Dec. 12.

That conference could result in a date for trial of the case.

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