Ex-constable sues FBI for drug ‘protection’ arrest
PITTSBURGH – A former state constable acquitted of charges that he protected a Pittsburgh-area drug ring that included his childhood friend and two cousins has sued the FBI agent who led the investigation for allegedly misleading a grand jury and wrongfully arresting him.
Frank Cobb, 32, of Duquesne, was a victim of guilt by association, according to his defense attorneys at trial and Joel Sansone, an attorney representing Cobb in the federal civil rights lawsuit filed Monday.
The FBI and state police raided Cobb’s home in December 2010 and accused him of being a part of the drug conspiracy. Cobb spent nearly a year in jail awaiting a trial at which he was acquitted.
“The actions of the FBI agent involved here, including misleading the federal grand jury, violating the constitutional rights of a sworn police officer, Frank Cobb, and basically trammeling his rights under the 4th Amendment, are abhorrent to what Americans think of as justice,” Sansone told the Associated Press Monday.
The AP could not immediately reach the agent, Minh-Tri Truong, who is the only defendant named in the lawsuit. A spokeswoman for the Pittsburgh FBI office declined to comment.
Cobb was one 42 people charged in related cases involving alleged cocaine trafficking in and around Duquesne, a poor, crime-ravaged suburb of Pittsburgh. According to his lawsuit, charges were dropped against one of the 42 defendants, while 40 others entered plea agreements with the government, with only Cobb challenging the charges at trial.
In an October 2011 superseding indictment, Cobb was charged with conspiracy, allowing his residence to be used for drug trafficking and having firearms there while he did so.
Cobb contends his childhood friend, Dewayne Joseph, and two cousins were part of the drug conspiracy, but Cobb said he wasn’t involved with it nor did he aid it. Cobb doesn’t deny that Joseph, specifically, was at his home, but he said that’s because they were childhood friends raised in the same community.
Joseph testified at trial that Cobb wasn’t involved in the conspiracy and that Cobb’s home wasn’t used in the drug dealing operation, according to the lawsuit.
At Cobb’s criminal trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy Johnston told the jury there was no evidence that Cobb touched cocaine but that he acted like a store security guard who doesn’t touch the merchandise, but makes sure the business is safe nonetheless. She told a jury Cobb allowed his home to be used and warned others about police investigations.
Cobb claimed his home security system could have produced video clearing him, but contends Truong refused to consider it and that the recordings were later “mysteriously” erased.
Cobb was a constable – an elected official who serves warrants, transports prisoners and performs other jobs for district courts – in Allegheny County.
His lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for the time he spent in a federal prison between the day his home was raided and his acquittal nearly a year later, losing his constable’s position and other related suffering.