Former HASD intern settles civil rights suit

Employees dropped from case in Vinosky’s wrongful arrest

Scott M. Vinosky, a former student intern — wrongly arrested for making threatening telephone calls nearly three years ago to the Hollidaysburg Area High, Junior High and three elementary schools — has agreed to an out-of-court settlement.

Vinosky filed a federal civil rights lawsuit 25 months ago in the U.S. District Court in Johnstown.

Hollidaysburg police and the state police are the two parties that agreed to settle, and the case has been dismissed, including against Hollidaysburg Area High school, Principal Maureen Letcher and guidance counselor Hully Hoover.

Attorney Ronald P. Carnevali Jr. of Johnstown, representing Vinosky, said Wednesday the settlement is confidential and that he could not reveal the details.

He said he did not expect his client would issue any statements concerning the settlement.

In the lawsuit filed in July 2020, Carnevali requested actual damages, punitive damages, attorneys fee and other costs associated with the lawsuit.

The case involved the arrest of Vinosky after five Hollidaysburg Area schools received threatening voicemails between 5 and 5:10 p.m. Nov. 20, 2019.

The caller identified himself as “Mister Fantastic.” His message stated things in the school district better change or he would be “forced to reallocate the resources of the world.”

The caller gave a deadline of 5 p.m. Nov. 22, 2019.

The voicemails resulted in an immediate investigation by the Hollidaysburg, Allegheny Township and state police.

The senior and junior high schools and the Longer Elementary School are in the borough, Foot of Ten Elementary is in Allegheny Township, Frankstown Elementary is in Frankstown Township.

Police recorded each of the messages, but while replaying the message at the high school, Letcher and Hoover, identified the voice as that of Vinosky.

Vinosky was a student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania who was working on a master’s degree in counseling and was interning with the school district.

His lawsuit stated that days before the threatening calls, he had reported a situation that he became aware of to Pennsylvania’s child abuse hotline.

He maintained he had a legal duty to make the report.

The school district terminated his internship, maintaining he did not follow the district’s procedures in calling Childline.

The district, in answering the lawsuit, indicated Vinosky was terminated for performance reasons.

Police after conferring with then Blair County District Attorney Richard A. Consiglio began to pursue Vinosky as a suspect.

The lawsuit, however, indicated that while police considered Vinosky a suspect, the district’s technology department was able to trace the telephone number of the caller to an individual named Javier Alberto Cantos Jr., a former school district student.

The lawsuit indicated also that the Hollidaysburg Police Department was also able to trace the call to Cantos.

Unbeknownst to the officers investigating the call, Cantos had been taken into custody by Logan Township police for an unrelated incident.

While in custody, he told police about his calls to the Hollidaysburg schools.

That information was not immediately relayed to the Hollidaysburg area investigators.

Meanwhile, police went to Vinosky’s State College residence and took him into custody.

His lawsuit stated he not only proclaimed his innocence but that he had an alibi — he was talking to his girlfriend at the very time the calls were made to the schools.

He claimed that his cellphone confirmed he was talking to his girlfriend.

After being arrested and after proclaiming his innocence once again while in custody at the Hollidaysburg Police Department, he was charged with terroristic threats and risking a catastrophe, both felonies, harassment and disorderly conduct.

He spent the night in the Blair County Prison.

He was released and the charges against him dropped after police confirmed Cantos had made the calls.

In reviewing the case, U.S. District Judge Stephanie L. Haines in September of 2021 dismissed civil charges against Blair County and the former DA, Logan Township and its officers, but maintained defendants Jesse G. Moyer of the Pennsylvania State Police, now-former Hollidaysburg Police Chief Rodney Estep, Hollidaysburg officer Allen Fochler and Letcher and Hoover.

Haines on Tuesday scheduled a status conference on the case, after which she reported the parties had reached a settlement.

The Altoona Mirror has been able to confirm that the school employees, Letcher and Hoover, were dropped from the lawsuit and the school district was not part of the settlement.

Allegheny Township and Chief Berg also did not participate in the settlement.

While Carnevali indicated he could not discuss the settlement, he reported that Vinosky found a good job with the state.

Also, Cantos was eventually arrested and charged with five counts each of terroristic threats and risking a catastrophe.

He entered guilty pleas and was sentenced to a term of 15 months to five years.

He was paroled on Dec. 14.


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