On July 1, 2014, Sgt. Ray Corll of the Lancaster, PA, Police Department arrested Steve Widdowson for public drunkenness. At Widdowson’s trial, Corll testified that Widdowson was staggering down the sidewalk and was clearly intoxicated. The judge agreed, and convicted Widdowson. So Widdowson appealed, and during the course of the appeal his lawyer found surveillance video that showed the arrest. And what the video showed was completely different from what Corll testified happened.
It showed an individual who was walking completely normally, and who did not appear at all intoxicated. The charges were dismissed and the District Attorney referred the matter to the Attorney General to investigate and prosecute if necessary. Corll, a former police union president, was no stranger to use of force complaints, he was a defendant in a number of lawsuits that the city either settled or lost.
The AG filed four charges against Corll. Perjury. False swearing. Official Oppression. Simple Assault. So the city put Corll on admin leave, with pay.* And in March of this year, a jury convicted him on all four counts.
It’s very clear what happened. Widdowson mouthed off to Corll, so Corll stopped the squad car,† jumped on Widdowson, took him to the ground, and punched him in the face. What’s unusual was that other officers said that Corll was out of line. The prosecutor was very clear on the matter. She said:
He lost his cool. He stepped out of line.
You can’t just punch a guy in the face.
The prosecutor, Megan Madaffari stated that there was absolutely no justification for the punch. She added:
There is a line between intentional misconduct and a mistake. The line is not blurry. He crossed that line.
And he did cross it. The question I have is how does someone get involved in six use of force lawsuits and the city hasn’t done something about it before now? He’s resigned now, with his lawyer saying that it was the “honorable” thing to do. Today he was sentenced to 7 to 23 months in prison. But he did do the “honorable” thing.
Nothing that Corll did in this case was honorable. We need to get rid of this type of officer, and we need to do it before it goes this far.
*I’m sorry, but if you have an officer who is indicted or otherwise charged with a felony, you fire them. Corll collected $120K while awaiting trial.
†Actually an SUV.