Woman wins $1.5M over wrongful arrest
December 24, 2012
CRANBERRY TWP — The township’s insurance carrier in March reached a $1.5 million settlement with a resident who was jailed and charged with lying to police after she was robbed and sexually assaulted. The settlement, which was placed under a 90-day court-ordered seal, marks the end of a long ordeal for township resident Sara Reedy, who filed the wrongful arrest lawsuit in 2006. Reached at home Monday, Reedy declined to comment and she asked that her comments to the London Observer, which has chronicled her story, be used. Among other things, Watt told the English newspaper that she’s “relieved that people will be able to see now that I was telling the truth. Although mine is an extreme case, I’m not the first and I won’t be the last.” Cranberry manager Jerry Andree confirmed the settlement which will pay $800,000 to Watt and $700,000 to her attorneys. Watt is receiving $80,000 up front and will receive the rest of the money in monthly installments through the year 2027. She filed suit after being charged with theft and making false statements to police stemming from an incident in July 2004. During that incident, Reedy was working at a gas station on Route 19 when a man walked in with a gun and stole $600. Before leaving, the man forced Reedy to perform a sex act at gunpoint. But township police detective Frank Evanson didn’t believe her story, and instead charged Reedy with the theft from the store and with lying to police. Reedy, pregnant at the time, spent nearly a week in jail before her bail was reduced. She also was only weeks away from going to trial in August 2005 when a man in central Pennsylvania admitted to sexually assaulting Reedy and another township woman. Police then dropped all charges against her, and her lawsuit soon followed. Andree said Monday that the settlement represents the end of a “long, complex” process. The case went through several dismissals and appeals before finally reaching resolution this year, Andree said. However, Andree added that the township never admitted wrongdoing as part of the settlement. In addition, Evanson is still with the police department. “At no point did a court say what the police officers did was illegal,” he said. Andree added that Reedy’s arrest was part of a multiagency task force and that there isn’t just one agency that is fully culpable. But that doesn’t mean that everyone involved doesn’t regret the ordeal. “Certainly, the township is very sorry this occurred to Ms. Reedy,” Andree said. According to court documents, Evanson asked Reedy after the robbery how many times she did “dope” each day and accused her of stealing the money herself and fabricating the story. The detective later told Reedy that her “tears aren’t going to save you now,” according to court documents. About three months after the incident with Reedy, on Oct. 13, 2004, another woman was sexually assaulted at gunpoint at the Landmark Building in Cranberry, an attack which bore “several similarities” to the attack on Reedy, according to court documents. In early January 2005, the same day Evanson learned DNA analysis from the Landmark attack was linked to other sexual assaults across the state, Evanson still filed charges against Reedy including theft, receiving stolen property and reporting false information. Reedy also reached a $45,000 settlement from the county’s insurance carrier in 2007 as a result of a suit filed against the county and former District Attorney Tim McCune.