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Monday, February 05, 2007

Board accepts $55K settlement

This article appeared in Pennsylvania's Times Herald on January 21, 2007:

Board accepts $55K settlement

By: CARL ROTENBERG
Times Herald Staff

UPPER MERION - The Board of Supervisors Thursday night agreed to accept a $55,000 settlement from two insurance companies for a federal lawsuit involving DNA testing.

United National Insurance Co. of Bala Cynwyd and Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association Insurance Co. of Whitpain had refused to pay $600,000 to the township for a $1.6 million settlement of a 2002 lawsuit against the township.

A third insurance company had agreed to pay $1 million of the settlement costs.

The $55,000 settlement means Upper Merion township is obligated to pay the remainder of the settlement from its operating funds, Solicitor Joseph Pizonka, said.

Upper Merion reached a July 2004 legal settlement with former landscaper Bruce Godschalk. Godschalk had filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the township, Upper Merion police, Montgomery County and the Montgomery County Prosecutor's office for delaying DNA testing.

The 46-year-old Godschalk was convicted by a jury in 1987 of allegedly raping two women in the Kingswood apartment complex in 1986. DNA testing was not commonly performed at the time of the conviction.

He was sentenced to a 10- to 20-year sentence. Starting in 1995, Godschalk began requesting the district attorney's office test the evidence for his DNA. The district attorney's office refused. The state courts upheld that decision.

But a federal court later ordered the DNA testing which exonerated Godschalk. He was freed from state prison on Feb. 14, 2002, after serving some 15 years of his sentence.

Godschalk sued the authorities involved in his case and two former Upper Merion detectives claiming the detectives used "trickery and deceit" to allegedly coerce a confession from him. Montgomery County's insurance company reached a $750,000 out-of-court settlement with Godschalk in October 2003.Times Herald reporter Margaret Gibbons contributed to this story.Carl Rotenberg can be reached at crotenberg@timesherald.com or 610-272-2500, ext. 350.
©The Times Herald 2007

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