Williamsport, PA – On Wednesday June 1st, U.S. Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson endorsed Susquehanna University lawyers’ request for a summary dismissal in a civil rights suit against the school. SU officials have publicly discussed their intention to pressure the federal courts to dismiss the case. A well coordinated scheme between the DA and SU have brought their wish one step closer.
Former student Joseph Smith filed a civil rights suit in 2014 over the 2012 search of his home in the dorms. The case revolves on Smith’s objection to university employees entering his home without permission and claims made by university security guards that drugs were in plain sight from the hallway. The university’s private paramilitary force claims their employees saw drugs in plain sight when they demanded entry to the student’s private room. The security guards claim they could smell pot in the hallway and returned early the following morning banging on Smith’s door. Smith says he never gave permission to search. Smith’s lawyers say since the security guards were acting on behalf of the police, they should have gotten a warrant and the search should be thrown out.
While it seems pretty clear that Smith did have illicit substances in his possession, the question at hand is the search of his room. SU security are known to act on behalf of police but intentionally choose to wait to involve them until after searching Smith’s home and seizing his property as evidence against him.
SU security have been exposed recently for their over-the-top tactics, false accusations against students and community members, and collusion with the Snyder County District Attorney’s office to manufacture drug charges. Snyder County District Attorney Mike Piecuch even went so far as make jokes on the matter saying “The 4th amendment doesn’t apply” to students.
Leaks of information from Piecuch’s office as well as posts on social media give the impression of not just collusion between the DA and SU, but intentional coordinated planning. SU installed handpicked student interns at both the Snyder DA’s office as well as Magistrate Carlson’s chambers to influence their decisions as well as keep close eyes on any potential negative publicity. After an online petition went viral, SU agreed to review its procedures on room searches and investigate claims of gross misconduct by school staff. DA Piecuch, however, responded to questions about the appearance of collusion by calling into the question the “honor” of constituents who dared question him.
Piecuch uses fees assessed from pot and other drug convictions to finance the employment of Kelly Feiler (nee’ Rudnitsky). With a worth of $100-$200 apiece several students, who are now convicted or currently facing charges, have come forward saying they are being farmed for money. Although the position has not been created yet, Borough Council President Marvin Rudnitsky has stated that his daughter, Ms Feiler, will be named the first director of the Regional Engagement Center. June also marks one year of waiting for a response from DA Peicuch in a request for review of sunshine act violations by council members.
The case will not be precedent setting, which is good for student-residents of Selinsgrove and citizen privacy in general. A decision against Mr Smith could be appealed since it would go against decisions in other similar cases nationwide and SU officials have been so public about their intent to pressure the court.
SU has said they will begin to review and change the way they do business; however, students are still compelled to give up their rights when accepting admission. Predatory prosecution means they have dollar-sign shaped targets on their backs the moment they step on campus. While a new group of student-residents join our community each year, what clearly some see as a never ending supply of court ordered general fund contributions and reelection fodder, eventually officials will run out of fresh meat to fleece.