Man Cleared of Resisting Arrest in K-9 Attack Case

WILKES-BARRE — The Berwick man bitten by a Wilkes-Barre police dog during his arrest last summer was acquitted at trial on Wednesday, paving the way for a civil lawsuit to move forward against the city.

A jury found Joshua Fought, 44, not guilty of a count of resisting arrest after a little under three hours of deliberations Wednesday. Luzerne County Judge David W. Lupas also granted a defense motion for acquittal on a count of disorderly conduct, allowing Fought to leave the courthouse cleared of all offenses related to his July 18 arrest that was caught on viral video.

“It’s good news, but it’s definitely what we expected,” said attorney Kevin V. Mincey, of the Philadelphia law firm Mincey & Fitzpatrick. “I think from the very first time we got involved with the case we knew that the charges against Josh were bogus.”

Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

The charges stemmed from an encounter on Public Square that resulted pending federal civil rights lawsuit against the city.

According to city police, officer Joseph Homza confronted Fought after seeing him and several others smoking and trying to conceal open beer containers. Police alleged that when Homza’s dog began to bark, Fought told Homza he did not have control of his dog and “became more and more disorderly, raising his voice and using profanity.”

Homza alleged Fought struggled as he was being handcuffed, prompting the K-9, Chase, to jump up and “assist” in his capture.

But Mincey said that Homza’s testimony during the two-day trial was “shaky” and produced several different versions of what happened. The video was also played and “played a big role” in showing jurors that there was reasonable doubt that Fought resisted, he said.

“When you watch the video it’s clear,” Mincey said. “Officer Homza is making a stop on Public Square for somebody that’s smoking a cigarette and having an open container, and you’ve got three or four officers responding, sirens everywhere, the dog is going to town on Josh’s back. I think it all looked really bad. It was really bad.”

The verdict will allow Fought’s federal lawsuit, which had been stayed pending resolution of the criminal case, to move forward. Mincey has said that “Fought suffered heinous injuries that have left him permanently disfigured” as a result of the dog biting him on the right side of his back.

The suit alleges Homza and Chase used excessive force while arresting Fought and that the City of Wilkes-Barre, Mayor Tony George and then-police Chief Marcella Lendacky failed to properly train and supervise their police officers.

Chase and the city’s other police dog were suspended pending evaluation after Chase was involved in a series of biting incidents, including Fought’s case. The other cases involved Chase biting a suspect and latching onto a police officer’s leg during a separate apprehension.

The dogs remain off the streets but are expected to return after being retrained.


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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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