August 28, 2015
A Harrisburg resident who spent three weeks behind bars following an altercation with two members of the Pennsylvania State Police filed a lawsuit Thursday alleging excessive use of force, false arrest and malicious prosecution in the encounter stemming from his use of a longboard in May.
According to a civil rights complaint filed by attorney Gerald Williams, Christopher Siennick, 25, was riding home from work during the early morning hours of May 16. Siennick, who relies on his longboard for transportation to and from work, was initially addressed by Pennsylvania Troopers Michael Trotta and Ryan Luckenbaugh, who allegedly shouted from their patrol car, "Get off the street, faggot."
The troopers then exited their vehicle and confronted Siennick, striking him with a baton and Tasing him twice. Siennick was later handcuffed, pepper-sprayed in the eyes and kicked in the head and face, causing pain and temporary blindness, the complaint states.
After the incident, Siennick was charged with 14 misdemeanors and felonies, including aggravated and simple assault, resisting arrest, reckless endangerment, disorderly conduct, flight, obstruction of highways, drunkenness, disregard of traffic regulations, violations of statutes regulating pedestrians, and "propulsion of missiles into an occupied vehicle."
Unable to afford a bail set at $250,000, Siennick spent three weeks in Dauphin County Prison.
"The reason we need police is to enforce the law, not break it themselves or enforce their own version," says Sienneck's attorney Williams.
Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marisco reviewed a videotape of the encounter, which has not been released, and dropped the charges after determining there was no basis to prosecute Siennick. Marisco subsequently requested that the State Police investigate the two troopers.
Siennick, who is seeking a jury trial, is active in Harrisburg's skateboarding community and is a social justice advocate for civil and environmental causes, according to the law firm representing him. Despite prior run-ins with the law, Siennick says he has had a positive relationship with police, volunteering in a program co-sponsored by his local police department to teach autistic children how to skateboard.
The case, Siennick v. Trotta and Luckenbaugh (Pennsylvania State Police), has not yet received a case number.
"Unfortunately, the only person who paid the consequences of this incident is Christopher Sienneck," says attorney Williams. "The purposes of this lawsuit is to stop this kind of conduct and make the consequences fair and put their effect where they belong."