WILKES-BARRE — Two years after federal authorities began a criminal probe of Wilkes-Barre police officer Marc Labar’s alleged use of excessive force on an uncooperative female prisoner at headquarters, his case was closed without any charges filed.
Labar’s attorney, Peter Paul Olszewski Jr., said he received a letter Tuesday from the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. notifying him that it had concluded its criminal civil rights investigation.
“The file is closed,” Olszewski said Wednesday. “There was no prosecutable violation.”
Olszewski said Labar, who joined the force in February 2007, was “absolutely overcome with relief” after being read the letter.
The attorney confided that this was a first for him. “I’ve never received a letter like this before,” Olszewski said.
Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tony George Thursday said he had not officially been notified of the results of the investigation, but was pleased with them when contacted by a reporter.
In June of 2017 George confirmed that a federal grand jury was investigating the case. George added that the officer — whom he declined to identify at the time — and then-police chief Marcella Lendacky were subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury that meets behind closed doors.
Olszewski, a former Luzerne County District Attorney and Common Pleas Court judge, declined to comment on whether the case went before a grand jury. He said he represented Labar in a federal criminal investigation.
The existence of the probe was further corroborated by an arbitrator’s ruling on July 31, 2017 on the five-day unpaid suspension Lendacky imposed on Labar for his treatment of the prisoner.
The police union, the Wilkes-Barre Police Benevolent Association, filed a grievance that led to the arbitration, saying Labar acted appropriately and was treated unfairly for doing what other officers have done without being disciplined.
The arbitrator, Ralph Colflesh Jr. reduced Labar’s suspension to two days, but agreed with the department’s determination that the officer used unnecessary violence against the prisoner, identified as Donetta White. In his decision, Colflesh identified mitigating factors of no prior misconduct for Labar and White not being injured.
Lendacky provided an in-house video of Labar and White to Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis. The district attorney, in order to avoid a conflict of interest due to her office’s close working relationship with the city police department, contacted the FBI.
Salavantis Thursday said she has not received any information about the case.
The arbitrator’s ruling disclosed that Labar forcefully struck and took White to the floor with a leg sweep on March 13, 2016 after she refused to comply with his commands that she remove her shoes before entering one of the holding cells at headquarters.
White did not file a complaint against Labar and charges of public drunkenness, marijuana possession, providing a false name to law enforcement, terroristic threats and resisting efforts to process her were later dropped after she was ruled incompetent.
Olszewski said Salavantis acted appropriately by referring the case to the FBI. He commended the federal prosecutors in Washington, D.C. and Scranton for their professionalism and thoroughness.
“We were thrilled with the results,” Olszewski said.
Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.