Charges against constables forwarded to county court
(AP) HANOVER TWP. — Alisha Almanzar awoke the morning of April 10 to the sound of someone pounding on her door.
Half-asleep, she said, she approached the door of her Hazleton apartment and opened it to the flash of a Taser in her face.
She said she didn’t know the man holding the Taser, who demanded to know the whereabouts of her friend, Kacey Koldesko, and twisted her hand behind her back when she tried to block the light of the Taser.
She also didn’t know he was a state constable there to pick Koldesko up on an outstanding warrant, she said.
Almanzar testified on Thursday against that constable, David Kneller, 40, of Myerstown, Lebanon County, and a second, John Sarge, 63, of Tamaqua.
They are accused of abusing their power when arresting her and Koldesko and making sexually suggestive comments about them while they sat, handcuffed, in the back of Kneller’s car.
Kneller and Sarge went before Magisterial District Judge Joseph Halesey for a preliminary hearing on Thursday after the case was transferred from the office of Magisterial District Judge Joseph Zola.
Police initially charged the two men in June with multiple counts of official oppression, false imprisonment, harassment and conspiracy to commit official oppression and false imprisonment stemming from the April 10 incident.
Almanzar testified that Kneller asked “Where’s Kacey?” as soon as she answered the door, then entered the apartment the morning of April 10. She said Kneller and Sarge both wore “tactical vests” but she did not see anything that identified them as constables. She said neither of them showed a badge.
She said after Kneller had found Koldesko in the apartment, he asked Almanzar for her name. When she provided it, she said Kneller “ran her name” on his phone and said she had an outstanding warrant for a charge of filing a false report.
She said she was unaware of the warrant, and Kneller did not provide her a copy of the warrant, only showing her something on his phone.
Koldesko testified that she knew Kneller as a constable and knew he was there to pick her up for unpaid fines on a charge in Schuylkill County.
She testified Kneller took her and Almanzar into custody in cuffs, and the four of them drove to a Kentucky Fried Chicken parking lot across the street from Zola’s office, where Kneller spent about 20 minutes on the phone trying to get the warrant against Almanzar.
When Kneller could not get the warrant from Zola’s office, Almanzar and Koldesko both testified they went to a Vine Street address where Kneller wanted to execute another warrant.
Koldesko said before leaving the vehicle, Kneller told Sarge, “I’m afraid to leave you alone with these two girls, you might get cardiac arrest.”
As he left, Koldesko said Kneller commented, “bowchicawow,” which both women took as a sexual innuendo.
The group then went to the Hazleton Police Department. Former Hazleton Lt. David Bunchalk testified he did not speak with Sarge, only with Kneller, who asked for a copy of Almanzar’s warrant so he could “get paid” for bringing her in. Bunchalk said he convinced Kneller to relinquish Almanzar to police custody on her criminal warrant, but Kneller refused to turn over Koldesko.
“Kneller would not let her out of the vehicle,” he said.
Bunchalk said he sent two detectives to follow Kneller as he and Sarge took Koldesko to Tamaqua to settle her warrant.
After settling her warrant and returning to Hazleton, police said, Kneller called Koldesko 14 times between April 10 and April 12, when she was interviewed by police.
Defense attorney Joseph P. Nahas argued Thursday that Sarge, according to Almanzar and Koldesko’s testimony, did not participate in the official oppression and false imprisonment actions of which Kneller was accused.
“What we have here is a urination contest between the Hazleton Police Department and Constable Kneller and my client got hit with the drops in between,” he said. “There is no overt act. Sarge stood by.”
The prosecution ultimately withdrew the counts of official oppression and false imprisonment against Sarge, and Halesey dismissed the counts of harassment against him.
Halesey forwarded all charges against Kneller to county court, while Sarge will only face conspiracy charges at the county level.
Halesey scheduled formal arraignment for both constables on Nov. 3 at 10 a.m. at the county courthouse.