Plum Teacher Files Lawsuit Against Borough, Police Officers

PLUM (KDKA) — A Plum High School teacher is filing legal action against the borough, its police force and several officers.

Drew Zoldak alleges the borough, the police force and officers Lanny Conley, Mark E. Focareta and Joseph Little violated his civil rights by charging him with intimidation of witnesses as part of the investigation into the Plum High School sex scandal.

“Our position is that the charges filed against Drew were not true. Number two, they should have known they were not true, and here’s the interesting thing, even if they thought they were true, they wouldn’t have amounted to a crime,” said attorney Al Lindsay.

Two male teachers pleaded guilty and have been sentenced to prison for sexual relationships with female students. Joseph Ruggieri, 41, will spend two to five years in prison and five years on probation. Jason Cooper, 39, was sentenced to jail for 18 to 36 months.

In 2015, Zoldak was accused of intimidating a female student who accused Ruggieri of having sex with her, but several other students disputed the girl’s account, and he was found not guilty.

“Without further investigation, in spite of the fact there was ample reason to disbelieve the allegations of the student, Focareta swore out an Affidavit of Probable Cause and obtained an arrest warrant to charge Drew Zoldak,” the complaint reads.

The document goes on to claim that Zoldak was “lumped in” with the other defendants in the scandal, causing harm to his career:

“It is alleged that he has been vilified in the print and broadcast media as being one of the teachers involved in the “sex with students” scandal at Plum High School. He has been placed in a position of embarrassment with his superiors and was suspended for over a year from his teaching position at Plum High School. He lost extra teaching positions and income he would have received from these teaching positions. Because of the false charges against him, he lost the ability to work with children including his own children, in sports activities such as coaching and helping with other people coaching.”

Zoldak had been suspended prior to his acquittal, but the lawsuit names him as a current Forensics teacher.

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