Schemery Zicolello

Letter in response to Mayor Campana's comments on the verdict against Raymond Kontz

This blog is Mike Zicolello's complete letter to the editor of the Sun Gazette in reaction to Mayor Campana's comments after a jury awarded our client more than $50,000 in damages.

The letter was posted as a letter to the editor in the Wlliamsport Sun Gazette on Sunday, but was not posted in its entirety.

When he learned of the verdict against Raymond Kontz, Mayor Campana was quoted in this paper as saying "I am very disappointed with the outcome. Ray Kontz is a good, honest cop. In today's world, anybody can sue for anything."

It was my great pleasure to represent Randy and Janete Shrey in the Civil Rights Lawsuit against Captain Raymond Kontz and I am both surprised and offended by the Mayor's reaction to the verdict of eight citizen jurors who sat and listened intently to all of the evidence before concluding that Captain Kontz was indeed, in this instance, not a "good, honest cop". The Mayor's reaction is also surprising when one considers what the Mayor knew, or at least should have known, about the claim.

Many people now know that the Shreys' claim against Kontz was based on his creating and perpetuating a lie that Little League International had made a criminal complaint that the Shreys' pins were using the Little League logo without authorization, when the pins were in fact made by a Little League licensed pin manufacturer. The Mayor knew this.

People who are familiar with the facts of the case, know that oddly there was no paperwork created by Kontz as to his investigation and seizure of the Shreys' Little League Police Badge Pins. No incident report. No Property Record. Nothing. The Mayor knew this.

People familiar with the case also know that the Shreys, after learning that Chief Foresman was involved in creating the complaint from Little League about the unauthorized us of its logo, filed a lawsuit against Foresman as well. The Shreys did not discover, nor could they discover, Foresman's involvement as there was no record of the incident ever occurring. The court dismissed the Complaint against Foresman solely because it was filed beyond the two year statute of limitations never addressing the merits of the claims against Foresman. The dismissal was appealed on grounds of "concealment", but the Court of Appeals denied the appeal. The Mayor knew this as well.

At trial the only people to testify that Little League had made a criminal complaint about the Shreys' unauthorized use of its logo were Kontz and Foresman. They identified James Ferguson as the source of the Complaint; Ferguson, a former police officer now employed in risk management and security at Little League, had testified two years earlier during his deposition that he had called the Williamsport Police Department to raise a "concern" about the pin, but that he had not made a complaint related to the unauthorized use of the logo. Indeed, it would not be his job to do so. At trial, Mr. Ferguson had some difficulty remembering the events from five years ago, but acknowledged he had never complained about the use of the Little League logo without authorization. If the Mayor had been paying attention, he should have known more than two years ago that the man Kontz and Foresman was serving up as the source of the criminal complaint about the pins from Little League was denying ever having made any such complaint.

Perhaps Mayor Campana thinks the Shreys should have resolved their problem with Captain Kontz without a lawsuit? Well, the Shreys did call the Mayor's office the day after the incident in an effort to address the situation. But, as is the Mayor's practice, his office simply referred the complaint back to the police department and the Shreys received an angry, threatening call from Kontz one-half hour later telling them to drop the matter. It is unfortunate that the Mayor does not have time to actually address the problems of citizens he was elected to serve. Perhaps he was pre-occupied with negotiations related to ice hockey?

With the foregoing in mind, I'd like to respond to the Mayor's quoted response to the verdict. Since he conveniently separated his response into three short and simple sentences, I will address each of his "thoughts" separately.

He is "very disappointed with the outcome." Indeed, I would imagine he would be. It is a black eye for his administration. He appointed both Kontz and Foresman to positions of authority within the department. But he should not have been surprised by the outcome. He knew, or should have known if he was doing his job, the facts. Does he truly not understand that police officers are not permitted to fabricate criminal complaints against law abiding citizens and seize their property? I'd like to think not. Perhaps he will take some meaningful action in response to the unanimous verdict of eight fair minded citizens, but I won't hold my breath waiting.

The Mayor claims that "Ray Kontz is a good, honest cop." Really? Kontz raised his "excellent reputation" as a central part of his defense, but two colleagues, a Police Lieutenant and a County Detective, testified to the contrary. Mayor Campana, how bad would your behavior have to be for people you work with to put their hand on a bible and swear to testimony that you are not an honest man? Is the Mayor really this blind to what has occurred right in front of him? Truly, unbelievable.

Finally, the Mayor states "In today's world, anybody can sue for anything." As an attorney, I am offended by this comment. As someone who knows that Mayor Campana purports to be a "man of education", I am shocked by this remark. Does the Mayor have any understanding of how the legal system works? The legal system is designed to prevent frivolous claims. After a complaint is filed in civil court, a defendant may file a motion to dismiss if the claim has no legal basis. A Judge then rules on the motion. Before a case goes to trial, the defendant can file a motion for summary judgment if the plaintiffs do not have actual proof of the facts necessary to support their claim. Once again, a Judge rules on the motion. If a plaintiff survives these substantial hurdles, the case then proceeds to a jury, which must render a verdict. In Kontz's case, a Federal Judge presided over the trial with eight fair minded jurors who heard both sides of the case and unanimously decided in favor of the Shreys and against Kontz, effectively finding that based on all of the evidence, the Shreys proved that Kontz lied about the complaint from Little League as to the use of their logo without authorization. Coincidentally, that means the jury unanimously found that both Kontz and Chief Foresman were not believable. This is why their verdict included punitive damages of $45,000 against Kontz. Punitive damages are rare. They are intended to punish a defendant for wanton and malicious conduct, and also to send "message" to deter similar conduct. Based on his reaction to the verdict..... I guess Mayor Campana did not get the message.

Mike Zicolello

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