Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Father Jailed 4 Failure to Pay Support shot by police.

Police killed man as he tried to kill self.
A federal lawsuit accuses two Allentown police officers of ''outlandish and outrageous conduct'' in what it calls the unprovoked shooting of a man who tried to kill himself with a box cutter.

James H. Stewart, 24, died from two gunshots to his back after the officers tried to arrest him for failing to return to Northampton County Prison after a work-release assignment. He had been jailed for failing to make child support payments.The suit, filed by attorney John P. Karoly Jr. on March 19, exactly two years after Stewart's death, alleges officer Jeremy Moll shot Stewart twice and that Moll's partner, Wesley Wilcox, yelled at him, ''What the f--- are you doing?''

Filed on behalf of Stewart's estate and his sister, Tonya Stewart, the suit accuses both officers of brutality and using excessive force. Besides Moll and Wilcox, it names former Chief Joseph Blackburn and the city as defendants, and seeks at least $300,000 in punitive and compensatory damages.

Allentown spokesman Joe McDermott said the city would issue no statement on the suit. ''It's litigation, so we can't comment on it,'' he said. ''Our solicitors and lawyers will look over it and proceed accordingly.''

Karoly, of South Whitehall Township, who has won multimillion-dollar settlements against Easton and Bethlehem in police brutality cases, could not be reached for comment.

Stewart, a handyman and father of three, had fallen behind on child support payments and in February 2005 was sent to Northampton County Prison, where he was placed in a work-release program. But he failed to return to the prison March 4, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Early on March 19, 2005, police received an anonymous tip that Stewart was at his sister's home at 510 Auburn St., Allentown.

According to the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court:

Moll and Wilcox arrived minutes later and ''pushed their way'' into the home, where they found Stewart ''sitting harmlessly'' on his bed. The officers ordered him to stand, asked his name and checked his identifying tattoos. When they told Stewart to turn around, he took a box cutter from his belt and ''tried to stab himself.''

One of the officers wrestled the box cutter away and threw it to the floor.

As Stewart stood with his back to the officers and arms to his sides, Moll shot him. Stewart fell to his knees, and Moll shot him again in the back. Stewart dropped to the floor, where he lay dying in a pool of blood.

When Wilcox yelled at Moll, asking what he was doing, Moll replied, ''I don't know! I don't know!'' Tonya Stewart, who stood behind the officers, screamed, ''You killed my brother!''

Wilcox and Moll forced Tonya Stewart to the floor, beside her brother, where she was handcuffed. The officers also handcuffed James Stewart, who was moaning and ''bleeding profusely.''

Wilcox turned to Moll, according to the suit, and said, ''My God, what did you do?''

Stewart was taken to Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest, where he died about 30 minutes later.

At the time of the incident, police said the city's communications center received a call at 2:39 a.m. from the Auburn Street home. The caller told police a wanted man was there and he might have a gun.

As two officers tried to arrest Stewart, according to the police account, he held up a box cutter and a struggle began. One of the officers fired at Stewart, hitting him twice in his upper back.

Besides excessive force and brutality by the officers, the lawsuit alleges wrongful death, unlawful seizure, false imprisonment, denial of medical care, civil conspiracy and assault and battery.

The suit also claims Tonya Stewart suffers from a variety of emotional ailments, including ''severe fright, horror and grief.''


ichbinalj said...

amfortas said,

This is sheer horror. I am finding it difficult to think of any circumstance where a policemen shooting someone in the back is justified. But child support for God’s Sake! Fourthwire is right to be outraged. Everyone should be. Everyone NEEDS to be.

April 4, 2007

ichbinalj said...

Last week I was at a Superior Court family law hearing about a child support modification to terminate the older child's child support payments. Before the hearing I was filled with hope of justice, fairness and equity. At the hearing, what happened would shock the conscious of any reasonable person with the least moral values. A mother who committed at least three mortgage frauds, (she lives in a house with a $420,000 mortgage with 4200.00 housing expenses, pays for 3 cars in excess of $1000.00) had committed perjury several times was found to be more credible by the court than a father that is an upstanding, well respected member of his community. The court did not care that the mother has hid the children several times when the father went to pick them up for visitation (she took off with them knowing that the father was on the way to get the children), the court also did not care that she punished the children for wanting to see their father, took away their gifts, and brainwashed them.
The only thing the court cared about was the father's money. How much it can take from him. The court never looked at the mother's pay check stubs, tax returns, loan applications, etc. They asked her how much she earned, she lied - she said she only makes $2500.00 a month) and that was the end of it. They took the father's paystubs, looked at those, the Commissioner added back some taxes the father has to pay to increase his net income, and reduced fathers visitation rights from 20 percent to 10 percent because the mother hid the children, so the father did not actually spend 20 percent with his children. So, the judge lowered the father's child support modification 40 dollars a month for 1 child. The judge did not care that the father has a toddler and a preschooler to take care of, the judge did not care that what the child wanted, what the father wanted, the only thing the judge cared about what is the most money he can make the father pay.
I have never felt so disgusted in my life.
The Founding Fathers of this country are turning in their graves, screaming in pain that all that they worked for is being destroyed.

Sylvia S.

ichbinalj said...

In his letter “Not paying one dime” (Houston Chronicle, 1/9/07), former Houston family court judge says I “totally missed the picture” in my recent column on Texas child support. He writes:

“The Jan. 7 Outlook article When beating up on ‘deadbeat dads’ is unfair totally missed the picture. Because most of these fathers are at or below poverty level, most likely their children are also living at or below poverty level. A payment of even $100 per month would be a significant asset for these children.

“Even a meager contribution — paid regularly — could mean decent clothing, school supplies such as a computer or maybe even more groceries. And the reason these fathers owe so much money is that they are not contributing one dime to their children’s care.

“Family courts are quite capable of dealing with unemployment or health problems, but those dads who are working and who choose not to make any contribution to the well-being of their own offspring rightly belong in jail.”

What the judge doesn’t seem to understand is that by creating artificially large arrearages (and a draconian enforcement system), the state drives fathers–many of whom would ordinarily pay something and try to stay a part of their children’s lives–underground.