Cranberry Township’s insurer will pay a $1.5 million settlement to a woman who filed a lawsuit after police wrongly arrested and charged her with fabricating a story that she had been raped during a robbery at a local convenience store.
“Obviously we're regretful it happened the way it did, but we're pleased that all parties can move forward now,” township manager Jerry Andree said.
Sara Reedy was 19 and working by herself at the JG Gulf station on Route 19 in Cranberry the evening of July 14, 2004 when an armed man entered the store and stole $600 from a safe.
He also held a gun to her head and forced her to perform oral sex on him, according to court documents.
Reedy, who has since married and changed her last name to Watt, called police and underwent testing from a rape kit. Patch typically does not name victims of sexual assault, but Reedy has asked to be identified, according to numerous media outlets.
After then-detective Frank Evanson interviewed her at the hospital, police arrested Reedy a short time later and charged her with making up the story in order to cover up stealing the money herself. She spent five days in jail.
Andree said the decision to arrest Reedy was part of a multi-agency task force related to a series of linked crimes. The Butler County District Attorney’s office approved all arrests in that investigation, he said.
“Everything that was done was done in conjunction with the task force,” Andree said.
Charges of reporting a false crime, theft and receiving stolen property filed against Reedy were dropped about a month later when police in Jefferson County arrested Wilbur Cyrus Brown II for sexually assaulting a store clerk in that area, the Pittsburgh Tribune Review reports.
Brown also admitted to committing two other attacks in Cranberry, including the one on Reedy.
In August 2006, Reedy filed a lawsuit against Evanson claiming unlawful search and seizure, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
Two years later, U.S. District Judge David S. Cercone found in Evanson’s favor after the officer filed a motion for a summary judgment.
Reedy, of Mars, then appealed the decision, which the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned in August 2010 and sent back to U.S. District Court. Had the settlement not been reached, a trial would have been scheduled.
Andree said United National Insurance Co., Cranberry’s insurer, would pay the settlement. Of the $1.5 million, Watt will receive $800,000. The other $700,000 will go to Leech Tishman Fuscaldo & Lampl, Reedy’s attorneys, according to the settlement.
“The township’s insurance carrier made the decision to enter into settlement talks with Ms. Reedy and ultimately agreed to terms,” Andree said. “We are pleased Ms. Reedy and the insurance company agreed, which will allow all parties to proceed forward.”
Reedy also received a $45,000 settlement in 2007 from a lawsuit she filed against Butler County and Tim McCune, then an assistant district attorney.
Evanson still is a corporal with the Cranberry police force, although he is not a detective.
Andree said Evanson elected to go on road patrol as a shift commander several years ago. The move was not related to the lawsuit, nor was disciplinary action taken against Evanson, Andree said.
“There was no basis for discipline. There was never any wrongdoing,” Andree said. “Every step of the way was approved by others.”
In an interview with The London Observer published Saturday, Reedy recounted her experience. She said she testified before Congress during her legal battle, helping to persuade the federal government to change the definition of rape to include forced oral sex and the rape of men.
"I'm relieved that people will be able to see now that I was telling the truth," she told The Observer. "Although mine is an extreme case, I'm not the first—and I won't be the last."