$750K settlement approved in malicious prosecution case

James Halpin, The Citizens' Voice, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
·2 min read

Apr. 8—A federal magistrate signed off Thursday on a $750,000 settlement in a malicious prosecution lawsuit brought by a former Coughlin High School teacher who was publicly accused of acting as a "lookout" in a student sex scandal and sexually abusing a teenage girl.

Attorneys Barry H. Dyller and Theron J. Solomon, of the Wilkes-Barre law firm Dyller & Solomon, alleged Luzerne County detectives Charles Balogh and Debbie Parker pressured a teenage girl to say former teacher Brian Hampel molested her, despite the girl's insistence that it never happened.

Luzerne County Council agreed to the $750,000 settlement during a meeting last month and Magistrate Judge William I. Arbuckle ordered the case closed Thursday.

"We are just happy that Mr. Hampel can move on with his life," said Solomon, a partner at the firm. "It was a great result and it speaks volumes. Mr. Hampel was and always will be innocent of the allegations that this case is based around."

Hampel's name first hit the news during the student sex trial of former school administrator Stephen Stahl, a fellow teacher who was convicted of having a sexual relationship with a minor at the school in 2004.

Prosecutors at Stahl's trial claimed Hampel served as a "lookout" while Stahl had sex with a 16-year-old girl in a classroom during school hours — a claim Hampel denied.

Hampel was never charged in that case, but in October 2016 prosecutors charged him with corruption of minors for allegedly having his own sexual relationship with a teenage student.

In May 2017, a county judge dismissed the case after the defense revealed the girl had never reported inappropriate contact.

Hampel's attorneys alleged the detectives threatened to arrest the girl if she didn't fabricate a sexual assault claim and they then concealed her denials when they obtained the arrest warrant from a magistrate.

The lawsuit alleged the Luzerne County District Attorney's Office used "the state's awesome prosecutorial power to exact an enormous toll on Mr. Hampel and his family."

The complaint alleged violation of Hampel's Constitutional rights, false arrest and imprisonment, malicious prosecution, abuse of process and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

In a brief order filed Thursday, Arbuckle ordered the matter closed pending consummation of the settlement by June 7.

The county's insurance provider is expected to cover the full cost of the $750,000 settlement, county officials have said.

Luzerne County District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce did not immediately return a message seeking comment on the settlement.

Contact the writer: jhalpin@citizensvoice.com; 570-821-2058