Bristol will pay to settle patrolman's claim

Posted: September 19, 2013

Bristol Borough will pay $440,000 to settle a lawsuit by a police officer who claimed his superiors and colleagues harassed him after he refused to lie for a patrolman who coerced a woman into a sex act in 2008.

The payout to Ritchie Webb Jr., disclosed by the borough Tuesday, ends an episode that cost Bristol nearly $1 million.

Under the deal, the borough and its officials and police admit no liability. Webb will continue to work in the department.

Webb was the ranking officer in August 2008 when Officer Sam Anderson responded to a domestic disturbance call. A woman said her drunken ex-boyfriend was throwing her belongings on the lawn. Anderson defused the situation and then coerced the woman into a sex act.

After the victim filed a complaint that night, Webb was asked to investigate, according to his lawsuit. He alleged that Anderson told him what happened, including details that suggested the woman did not want to engage in the sex act.

The woman also sued, seeking damages for psychological and emotional distress. She settled for $385,000 in June.

The borough's insurance company paid the $825,000 in settlements, which do not reflect Bristol's attorneys' fees.

"The cost to the borough was tremendous, likely well over $1 million," said Jonathan James, one of the woman's attorneys. (The Inquirer does not name victims of sex crimes.)

James said Webb likely received a larger settlement because his suit was broader and involved more defendants.

Webb alleged that police and borough officials harassed him because he would not change his story about what happened.

Webb claimed he was denied overtime and suspended for 11 weeks for "baseless allegations" that he threatened to shoot someone. County detectives found no merit to that claim, the suit said.

The suit, filed in December 2011, claimed Webb lived "in constant fear of being placed in a life-threatening situation at work without backup responding."

Frank Lavery, the attorney for the borough, declined to comment on the settlement. Louis Hornstine, who represented Webb, also declined to comment.

Anderson ultimately resigned and pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge of official oppression, which means he misused his badge. He was released from jail after three months.


Contact Ben Finley at 610-313-8118 or bfinley@phillynews.com, or on Twitter @Ben_Finley. Get more Bucks County news at Inquirer.com/bucksinq.

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