Pittsburg Post-Gazette

Ex-detective in prison for assaulting suspect

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Johnstown Police Sgt. Richard Rok was known for busting drug dealers and solving other high-profile cases during his 13-year career. But he also was accused of abusing his authority, and it led to his downfall.

Today, Rok, 42, sits in a federal prison in Missouri, serving a one-year sentence for assaulting a handcuffed suspect.

The former detective helped convict Ernest Simmons of murder in 1993. In the years afterward, Rok was accused of misconduct in that case and of assaulting suspects, conducting searches without warrants and pushing a witness to make false identifications.

U.S. District Court records show Rok was accused of persuading an elderly witness in 1998 to falsely identify a robbery suspect. After the suspect was acquitted, he sued Rok and Johnstown police for false arrest, witness tampering and destroying evidence. The case was later dismissed.

Also in 1998, Rok helped apprehend a man in a domestic dispute. While the man was handcuffed on the ground, Rok kicked him in the face and broke his nose, then stepped on his groin, according to an action filed in U.S. District Court.

After a federal investigation, Rok avoided charges by pleading guilty in 2002 to a misdemeanor civil rights violation. After a hearing in which two other criminals said they were attacked by the detective, he was sentenced to one year in prison and quit the force.

Using the light sentencing of officers in the Rodney King case as an example, he appealed the sentence as too harsh. A judge upheld the sentence in September 2003.

Suffering from a lifelong kidney ailment that forced a transplant, he was sent to a federal medical prison in Missouri. He didn't reply to requests for comment.

Police/Prosecutor Misconduct
Ernest Simmons Case
Truth in Justice