Clarks Summit chiropractor alleges malicious prosecution

Says Lackwanna County prosecutors conducted ‘improper investigation’

By OWEN WALSH
Posted 11/11/20

LACKAWANNA COUNTY, PA — A Clarks Summit chiropractor—who was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a patient in 2018, only to have those charges dropped in 2019—now alleges …

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Clarks Summit chiropractor alleges malicious prosecution

Says Lackwanna County prosecutors conducted ‘improper investigation’

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LACKAWANNA COUNTY, PA — A Clarks Summit chiropractor who was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a patient in 2018, only to have those charges dropped in 2019 now alleges wrongdoing by the Lackawanna County District Attorney’s office. A Wayne County judge is also involved in the legal filing.

According to a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of chiropractor John Stevens, he met a woman in January 2018 at a social event and they began sending private, flirtatious messages over Facebook. In March, the suit says the two engaged in a consensual sexual encounter at Stevens’ office during off-hours.

Driving back from the encounter, the suit says the woman called her employer and then her aunt, Wayne County judge Janine Edwards, and said that she had been sexually assaulted.

“Upon information and belief, Edwards thereafter used her influence to persuade [District Attorney] Mark Powell and [Assistant District Attorney] Judith Price to begin an intentionally biased and procedurally improper ‘investigation’ with the goal of constructing a criminal case against [Stevens],” Stevens’ attorney claims in the suit. Edwards is mentioned several times but is not named as a defendant.

The suit further alleges that the district attorney’s office and county detectives pushed forward with the investigation, ignoring factors like the private messages that suggested the encounter was consensual and multiple reports of the woman lying to police in other situations, which the suit says hurts her credibility.

According to the filing, Price pressured the attorney prosecuting the case, Sara Varela, to “manufacture” a mental health diagnosis to explain why the woman had lied to police on another occasion. The case was transferred to someone else after Varela, citing ethical concerns, refused to do so, the suit says.

Powell ended up dropping all charges against Stevens in July 2019. Stevens’ attorney is saying too little, too late. Among other damages, he alleges in the suit that Stevens lost his license after Powell went “outside of prosecutorial duties and… personally contacted the Pennsylvania Office of Enforcement and Investigation in an effort to suspend Plaintiff’s chiropractic license.”

Speaking to the Scranton Times-Tribune, Powell defended his office’s actions and the timeline of the investigation.

“The investigative team’s decision to withdraw the charges was difficult, but it was based solely on the facts and whether we could prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” Powell said. “I look forward to explaining our actions and decision-making process in court.”

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania and seeks declaratory, injunctive and other appropriate relief for Stevens.

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