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UPPER PERK POLICE SETTLE CIVIL SUIT BY RED HILL FAMILY

HELEN AND JOHN BURNS WILL GET AN UNDISCLOSED AMOUNT TO DROP CLAIM.

A Philadelphia law firm Thursday announced the settlement of a suit charging four Upper Perk police officers with civil rights violations in the arrest of a Red Hill man.

The firm Popper & Yatvin said the agreement, while denying liability for any wrongdoing, includes payment of an undisclosed amount to Helen Burns and her son, John, of 743 Aspen Circle in return for dropping the litigation. Filed in December in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, the suit named as defendants officers F. Robert Seville, Robert Jones and Susan Grala and then-Police Chief Thomas J. Liott. Grala and Liott are no longer with the department.

“We were prepared to go forward either way,” said Andrew Shubin of Popper & Yatvin. The point of the suit was to show what the officers did was “absolutely wrong and unconstitutional,” Shubin said.

Seville said Thursday he could not comment on the suit, which stems from an incident on Jan. 4, 1995, when Grala spotted John Burns driving along Main Street in Red Hill. She notified Seville and he told her to wait until he arrived to try to stop Burns, who was suspected of driving with a suspended license.

Police charged Burns, then 50, in a subsequent struggle in his driveway. Charges of simple and aggravated assault and resisting arrest were ordered held for court in a preliminary hearing before District Justice Catherine M. Hummel on Jan. 31, 1995.

Seville testified at the hearing that Burns tried to ram his police cruiser, punched him in the jaw and kicked his knee. Seville said he pushed Burns onto the hood of a police car to restrain him.

According to the suit, Seville repeatedly slammed Burns’ head against the car hood while other officers watched, and forced Burns into the back of a police car. The officers also denied Burns immediate medical attention, the suit said.

While police were taking Burns into custody, the suit says, his mother, 80, was pushed to the ground when she said she would call a lawyer. The suit also claims Seville threatened the family in a telephone call that upset Helen Burns, prompting angina attacks.

The suit accused all four officers with violating Helen and John Burns’ civil rights. Grala and Seville also were accused of assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress