An attorney for Chester County District Attorney Thomas P. Hogan fired back at the state police union on Wednesday, filing objections to a lawsuit faulting the prosecutor for a list of law enforcement officers whom his office blocks from testifying in court and objecting to an internal memo criticizing the actions of one trooper recently placed on the list.
The suit, filed by the Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Association in September, centers on a police-involved shooting in May in which three troopers fired at a suspect in a DUI-fueled chase. Lt. Brandon Daniels, the on-scene commander, was accused in Hogan's internal memo of making several critical errors during the investigation of the shooting, earning his place on the district attorney's "do not call" list of officers he deems unworthy of being called to the stand.
In the suit, the union derides Hogan for keeping such a list, calls it arbitrary and capricious, and says its disclosure was damaging to Daniels and other members of the state force.
Michael B. Pullano, Hogan's attorney, wrote that the suit fails to disclose that Daniels had retired from the force and found a new job, rendering moot the union's assertion that his reputation had been damaged. Pullano said Hogan learned that Daniels had left the force when he attended an event on gun safety organized by the Owen J. Roberts School District on Oct. 10 and school officials introduced Daniels as an employee.
As for the list of officers the prosecutor has barred from being called to the witness stand, Pullano said, Hogan had complete discretion to maintain such a roster. "Prosecutors have a duty to protect the integrity of the criminal justice process, including identifying witnesses who cannot be used because they are untrustworthy or lacking in credibility," he wrote. "This may include law enforcement officers who have been deemed unreliable."
Sean T. Welby, Daniels' attorney, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In court filings, Welby confirmed that Daniels was planning to retire as of Oct. 19.
In the lawsuit, Welby disputes allegations that Daniels, as on-scene commander, mishandled the investigation of the police-involved shooting on May 23 in London Grove Township. He also derides prosecutors for keeping the "do not call" list, and says its "partial publication" in Hogan's memo was "inherently damaging to the reputation of both Daniels and all members" of the state police working in Chester County.
"Nor are there any apparent standards for being placed on the list other than the arbitrary and capricious whim of District Attorney Hogan," Welby wrote.
After the shooting, Hogan said publicly that no charges would be filed against the three troopers who fired their weapons at the suspect. But privately, he sharply criticized Daniels, saying he did not report the shooting to the prosecutor's office – the independent agency assigned to investigate police-involved shootings – for four hours. Daniels later explained the delay by saying he "had other things to do" and did not have Hogan's cell phone number, reasons Hogan found not credible.
Pullano's response Wednesday disputed contentions that the memo had harmed Daniels' professional reputation. He noted that in the months after the shooting incident, Daniels was able to testify in other counties where the state police have jurisdiction, and said that Daniels' job was never in jeopardy and that he was able to secure a job with the Roberts school district after he retired.
Pullano said any harm that fell to Daniels came from his lawyer, who made the memo public in a court filing. Hogan, he said, had only intended the memo to be distributed among top state police commanders.
Further, Pullano called the union's suit "an attempt to dictate what witnesses the Chester County District Attorney's Office will or will not call."
"Daniels has been found to be lacking in credibility by the District Attorney's Office," he said. "Therefore it is within the discretion of the district attorney not to call him as a witness."
Pullano said Hogan's maintenance of the "do not call" list is his right as the top prosecutor in the county, and a standard practice among his counterparts elsewhere in the state and the country.