Carole Wiedmann no longer faces charges for the crime of being bitten by a city police dog. But the city will soon face a federal civil-rights lawsuit over actions that culminated in the biting incident.
On June 18, Court of Common Pleas Judge Robert C. Gallo dismissed the case against Wiedmann, who had been convicted of disorderly conduct charges after she was bitten on the back of her thigh while leaving an Aug. 20, 2005 anti-war demonstration in Oakland.
Wiedmann, 69, of Ohio Township, found herself at the rear of the protest as it dispersed from in front of the military recruiting station on Forbes Avenue. She has long maintained that she was attempting to follow police orders when the dog bit her from behind. Witnesses and videotape support her account, though city police have twice testified that Wiedmann was sitting immobile on the sidewalk when the snarling dog approached.
"My persistence paid off," said a pleased Wiedmann after the dismissal.
After nearly two years of court proceedings, "This is the first court that made a little bit of sense," said Wiedmann's attorney, Mike Healey. City police had made the rare move of reinstating the original charge of failure to disperse in 2006 after a city magistrate dismissed it. That charge was subsequently dismissed by a second magistrate, who convicted Wiedmann of the lesser charge. Mike Manko, spokesperson for the district attorney's office said the office "had nothing to do with the resolution of this case."
Healey said he will meet with city representatives in the last week of June about a federal civil-rights lawsuit he is pursuing. It centers on what he terms "excessive force" during the 2005 protest -- particularly the use of a stun gun and "the lack of city policies" on stun-gun use. Videotape of protester De'anna Caligiuri shows her already prone in the street, with at least one officer holding one of her arms behind her back, when police used a stun gun on her.
"The police have a right to detain her," Healey said, "but do the police have a right to Taser her on the ground?"