Former Smith Township police officer sues county

January 28, 2013

In 2009, Derek Dayoub was working as a Smith Township police officer when he was charged with allegedly assaulting two men while on duty.

Dayoub, then 25, was suspended without pay from his position shortly after his arrest, although charges against him were dismissed two years later at the request of former Washington County district attorney Steve Toprani.

Dayoub, however, is now claiming in a federal court lawsuit that his arrest was made without probable cause and involved a conspiracy among Toprani, former county chief detective Michael Aaron, former Burgettstown police Chief George Roberts and McDonald police Officer William Nimal. Also named in the suit are Washington County and Burgettstown Borough. Aaron recently left his job with the county.

According to the complaint that was filed last month, Dayoub’s arrest stemmed mostly from a vendetta between Aaron and former Smith Township supervisor Joe Murray.

The dispute between Aaron, who formerly worked as a McDonald police officer, and Murray began as they were both vying for the position of chief deputy of the county’s sheriff’s office, the lawsuit claims.

Murray was appointed to the post.

“These events created a great deal of animus between Aaron and Murray, at least as far as Aaron was concerned, and later became a motivation for Aaron to act the way he did toward Dayoub,” the lawsuit reads.

According to the lawsuit, Dayoub, who is of Syrian descent and a Syrian Christian, met Aaron in 2007 at a Christmas party at the home of retired police Office Bob Price. Dayoub accompanied Price’s daughter, Amber, to the party. Amber Price also was working as a Smith Township police officer.

“Aaron immediately showed hostility toward Dayoub, stemming from the fact that Aaron is Jewish and Dayoub is of Middle Eastern descent,” the lawsuit claims. “This hostility frequently surfaced and took the form of Aaron calling Dayoub a terrorist and making derogatory comments about Dayoub’s religious beliefs and ancestry.”

The complaint then claims Aaron proceeded to focus on Dayoub’s police actions, often subpoenaing case files, dropping charges against suspects arrested by Dayoub and even forcing Dayoub to take a polygraph and drug test.

“It seems as though Aaron was looking for an instance where Dayoub had taken a misstep in his police work in order to retaliate against him for his race and ancestry,” the complaint reads.

Then, in 2009, Dayoub was arrested for allegedly assaulting John S. Dvorsak without provocation on Elizabeth Street in Slovan, after Dayoub responded to a report of a fight between Dvorsak’s son and another man. He also was charged for allegedly assaulting Brandon Lancaster while Lancaster was working at a McDonald’s restaurant in Burgettstown.

Dayoub contends he was arrested without warrant and because of false statements by the alleged victims after they were coerced into giving them by Aaron and Toprani. False statements also were allegedly provided by Nimal and Roberts regarding the two cases.

Specifically, Nimal acted in retaliation against Dayoub for arresting his friend, Dvorsak, and due to his personal animosity toward Smith Township police department where he had been fired before his employment with McDonald, the complaint contends.

Dvorsak, Lancaster and Nimal have since expressed remorse to Dayoub regarding their false statements, the suit claims.

Meanwhile, just prior to his arrest, Dayoub discovered a surveillance camera in one of the air vents of the Burgettstown police department, where Price also worked part time. The camera was facing the bathroom where some of the female officers and staff members were forced to change because not all of them had lockers.

After the discovery, Amber and Bob Price, who were friends with Aaron, contacted him to discuss the cameras, at which time Aaron admitted installing them as a favor to Roberts. Aaron was irritated by the Prices’ inquiry.

Aaron then proceeded to call Bob Price, telling him to keep his daughter away from Dayoub. “Aaron would add to these warnings promises to get Dayoub fired from his job,” the lawsuit reads.

Toprani elected to continue to prosecute Dayoub, the suit contends.

In October 2009, however, Toprani sought to dismiss the cases against Dayoub. During an appearance before Judge John DiSalle, Toprani refused to speak in open court because the media was on hand and the matter involved the county grand jury.

The charges eventually were dismissed after closed-door sessions with the judge.

In the meantime, Toprani continued to refuse recommending the expungement of the charges from Dayoub’s record. Toprani left office in January 2012.

“Because of the despicable actions of Aaron and the other collaborators, Dayoub wrongfully lost his employment, or was suspended therefrom, has been forced to defend himself against baseless charges and bear the financial burden thereof,” the lawsuit states.

Dayoub has since returned to work part-time in Smith Township, but has not been called back by another police department that he worked for prior to his arrest.

In addition to deprivation of his civil rights, the defendants’ actions have caused Dayoub to be “ostracized, suffer emotional distress, anxiety, embarrassment.”

He is seeking a court judgement in excess of $75,000, an award of attorneys fees and costs, and punitive damages against the defendants.

Amber Price also was charged around the same time of Dayoub’s arrest. However, charges against her later were dismissed by Toprani.

She was placed on suspension during the criminal investigation but lost her job when Burgettstown disbanded its police force.

In the meantime, Price filed a federal lawsuit against Burgettstown and Washington County officials, claiming they secretly taped her undressing at the police station, and, along with state police, maliciously prosecuted her. The case was settled early last year.

Toprani and current District Attorney Gene Vittone did not return calls seeking comment. A telephone number for Aaron could not be located. The lawsuit was turned over to county’s insurance carrier, said solicitor Mary Lyn Drewitz.

Linda Metz has been with the Observer-Reporter since 2000, covering Washington County courts and politics, as well as the city of Washington. She previously was employed by the Tribune Review. She is a graduate of Point Park College, now a university, in Pittsburgh.

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