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Photographer wins damages in suit against police

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Photographer wins damages in suit against police05/20/96 PENNSYLVANIA--A Pittsburgh photographer was awarded $101,001 in damages in early May in his…

Photographer wins damages in suit against police

05/20/96

PENNSYLVANIA–A Pittsburgh photographer was awarded $101,001 in damages in early May in his civil suit against local police who accused him of interfering with the arrest of a homeless man.

Charles Palla Jr., who now works for the Tribune-Review of Greensburg, was arrested while taking pictures of the man’s arrest in a parking lot while freelancing for the Associated Press. Police charged Palla with both obstruction of justice and disorderly conduct, and confiscated his film, which was returned three days later with more than 20 frames exposed.

Palla filed a civil complaint in the Court of Common Pleas in Pittsburgh against the arresting officer, Ronald Nagy, and the city of Pittsburgh, claiming that his constitutional rights had been violated.

The jury ruled in his favor, finding that the police officer engaged in misconduct and that the city “acquiesced in known police misconduct,” according to Palla’s attorney. The city must also pay the costs of the litigation.

According to Palla, when Nagy saw that he was being photographed, he ordered Palla to stop and “started yelling.” Palla then asked the police officer his name, which made the officer angrier, according to the photographer. Nagy called another police officer over and arrested Palla. Nagy said that Palla had pushed him in the chest to stop the arrest and ask Fischbagh for his name, according to AP reports.

The criminal charges brought against Palla were dismissed in 1992 by Judge Robert Dauer, who ruled that prosecutors did not present sufficient proof. (Palla v. Pittsburgh; Media Counsel: Tim O’Brien, Pittsburgh)