SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – A veteran police officer is under investigation for alleged misconduct.
What started off as an internal investigation now involves county, state and federal authorities and the investigation resulted in nearly 20 criminal cases being tossed out of court.
Scranton police launched an internal investigation into Corporal Thomas McDonald last August after they received a complaint about alleged misconduct on the part of McDonald.
McDonald, a 17-year veteran in the Scranton Police Department, is a member of the Special Investigation Division. In it, he handled mostly drug investigations.
Police Chief Carl Graziano referred the case to the Lackawanna County District Attorney’s office for a criminal investigation.
McDonald was placed on administrative duties in August. He had no interaction with the public and was taken off the street.
Earlier this month he was placed on paid administrative leave. District Attorney Mark Powell was unable to say anything about the case, as it is active and ongoing.
Powell did file motions with Lackawanna County Court to drop 18 criminal cases that were handled by Corporal McDonald. Court documents obtained by the I-Team show concerns on the part of prosecutors about the impact the current investigation will have on those cases, stating that McDonald’s conduct cast significant doubt on his credibility and compromises those investigations.
D.A. Powell says some of those cases were already won.
“One of the cases where the defendant already pleaded guilty. I was forced to nolle prosequi (not prosecute) that. In another we had an admission but an admission we could not use,” Powell said.
Sources close to this investigation say that federal authorities are looking at this case for possible civil rights violations. Some of the information they have seen are raising questions about possible racial profiling of suspects, and some of those concerns center around the discovery of text messages uncovered during the investigation.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office will neither confirm nor deny their involvement in this investigation.
McDonald has not been charged with a crime and has declined to comment on the investigation.