W. Philly man sues for false arrest after fatal Haverford crash

Posted: October 12, 2012

A WEST PHILADELPHIA man wrongly identified as the drunk and stoned driver of a stolen SUV that struck and killed a Villanova University student while being chased by cops has sued police for false imprisonment and other civil-rights violations.

Kenny Woods, now 23, was arrested Sept. 29, 2010, after a high-speed crash in Haverford Township that left Daniel Giletta, 21, dead and his roommate, Frank P. DiChiara, seriously injured.

A day after Woods' arrest, Donnie Sayers of Bryn Mawr confessed that he was the driver, and police swapped Sayers for Woods as the defendant.

Sayers was drunk and high on PCP in a stolen Range Rover when Haverford Officer Thomas McDermott tried to stop him. Instead, Sayers sped off, rear-ended Giletta's Volkswagen at more than 100 mph at Haverford and Rugby roads and fled on foot. He pleaded guilty in May 2011 and was sentenced to 13 to 26 years in prison.

Woods spent only two days in jail. But the experience cost him a new job, and months later, he remained unemployed, he said, because of the arrest, which has since been expunged.

"Woods felt afraid, defenseless, helpless, terrorized, and threatened; he was also embarrassed and humiliated for being labeled the 'NOVA KILLER' by various media outlets," the lawsuit states.

Filed last week in federal court in Philadelphia, Woods' suit claims false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and emotional distress. Defendants are Haverford Township Police Chief Carmen D. Pettine, Sgt. Daniel Wallower, Detective Jere Goodman and McDermott, who identified Woods as the driver in a photo lineup. Also named is Philadelphia police Detective Timothy McCool.

Woods and attorney Holly C. Dobrosky, who represents him, didn't return calls for comment Thursday from the Daily News.

Contact Dana DiFilippo at difilid@phillynews.com or 215-854-5934.

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