Midstate man sues Corbett, AG staffers for malicious prosecution

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It's a 36-page rebuke of Governor Tom Corbett, who as Attorney General in November 2009, charged John Zimmerman, of Hummelstown, in the Computergate case.

The civil lawsuit names Corbett, former AG Linda Kelly, former prosecutor Frank Fina, and other AG staffers. It was filed in Federal Court in Harrisburg Thursday afternoon.

“He was criminally prosecuted at the intersection of sheer incompetence and malicious prosecution,” said Devon Jacob, Zimmerman's attorney.

Zimmerman was a staffer for John Perzel. In November, 2009 his picture appeared on the big blue board of accused in the Computergate case. He was charged with covering up evidence. He was handcuffed and paraded in front of television cameras.

But two years later, in November, 2011, all charges were dropped against Zimmerman.

The lawsuit calls it a “malicious criminal prosecution” where Zimmerman was portrayed as a criminal across the state. It also alleges that Zimmerman was ostracized from the community.

“Unfortunately, he's lost a lot of friends over this,” Jacob said. “His reputation has been destroyed and he's attempting to get his career back on track.”

The Attorney General successfully convicted Perzel and two dozen other lawmakers and House staffers in Bonusgate and Computergate.

Democratic Whip Mike Hanna – (D) Centre-Clinton –  concedes Republican Corbett's prosecutions have changed the culture at the Capitol for the better. He called the lines between right and wrong, “bright yellow.”

“All I am saying is it has helped clarify the lines and make sure that everyone that's employed in the legislature knows the clear lines, the ethical lines, the legal lines and they are being observed,” Hanna said.

But Zimmerman insists he was wronged by overly zealous prosecutors. His attorney says Zimmerman was named just three times in the original 180-page presentment. Jacob also says that a first-year law student would've known the case against Zimmerman was flimsy and should never have been brought.

Jacob won't say how much the suit is seeking but says it will take money to right the wrong.

“Compensatory damages, punitive damages, this case clearly screams of punitive damages,” Jacob said. “This was a clear misuse of process and abuse of office.”

In an ironic twist, the case will likely fall to Democratic Attorney General Kathleen Kane to defend Corbett and the others. An AG spokesman hadn't seen the suit Thursday afternoon and therefore would not comment.

 

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