A police sergeant who also serves on the Octorara Area School Board has been receiving threatening letters both at his home and police department.
Anthony Falgiatore, of Chester County, said he and his wife have received letters demanding they admit their alleged involvement in an ongoing lawsuit and publicly agree to pay the school district the legal fees associated with the lawsuit.
Falgiatore, who serves as a police officer in East Whiteland Township in addition to sitting on the Octorara school board, told The Lancaster Patriot that the first letter was delivered on May 19 to his home and was addressed to his wife.
“100 a week will be mailed to his neighbors unless you and Tony admit lawsuit was a set-up and repay the School District at once! Let us know on FB by 11:59 PM, Friday, May 19th, 2023. Thank you Missy!! You still look amazing by the way,” the letter said in text written with a gray marker.
The note referenced an image and text found inside the folded paper which contained a photo of John Ryan Miller being arrested. The text asked people to request that government officials commit Miller into a mental health facility because the “general citizenry cannot continue to be responsible for controlling his endless litany of public outbursts and tantrums.”
Miller, also known online as the Cultural Contrarian, was arrested on September 19, 2022, for allegedly trespassing on public school property. The arrest occurred outside of normal school hours, during a school board meeting open to the public.
Miller had not been charged with any crime on the property prior to the arrest but was simply told that then Superintendent Michele Orner did not want him on the property.
Miller said he did receive a letter in the mail from Orner requesting that he not return to public school meetings on school property, but her request does not have the force of law.
Several months prior to his September arrest, Miller submitted a Right to Know Request asking for a copy of a “Probable Cause Affidavit that he had committed a crime, a crime was in progress or a crime [occurred] to be demanded to leave public property and that if I didn’t leave property, I would be arrested for defiant trespass.”
Miller said he never received any such affidavit because it “doesn’t exist.”
At an earlier school board meeting, Miller had attempted to speak on behalf of a group of Octorara parents during the public comment period of the meeting, but was told he was not allowed to speak without first sharing his personal information, including his place of residence.
Miller contends that any policy requiring personal information to be shared may be applicable to employees of the school district, but not to public citizens who are protected “under the Constitution to remain secure in their Fourth amendment and have no duty nor obligation to provide the requested information.”
Falgiatore was not involved in the arrest.
Miller’s federal lawsuit names all the members of the Octorara School Board at the time of the incident (except Falgiatore) and more than 70 other defendants, including Orner and other district employees and police officers involved in the matter.
The lawsuit alleges that Miller was deprived of his rights under “color of law.”
According to U.S. law code, Section 242 of Title 18 makes it a crime for someone acting under the color of law to willfully deprive a person of a right or privilege protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.
In addition to his complaint that he was silenced from speaking during a public forum, Miller contends that it is unlawful “to remove an individual from public property absent of the elements to support probable cause of criminal activity” and a request from a police officer to leave public property is “merely a request” and “does not require a citizen to comply.”
Miller told The Lancaster Patriot that what was initially supposed to be a three-minute speech during a public comment period, has turned into something much bigger.
“All you have to do is stop and repent,” Miller said. “Just let me speak. Let me advocate for these children.”
After Falgiatore spoke up on behalf of Miller following his arrest, phone calls began coming into the police department where he works.
“Within a week of my testimony, my boss got a [phone call] from the Pennsylvania State Police local barracks that handled the arrest, advising him that they were concerned about my testimony,” said Falgiatore.
But things really “ramped up,” Falgiatore said, when a federal judge said the defendants in the lawsuit did not have qualified immunity and were acting as private persons in the case.
Qualified immunity allows public officials to be shielded from civil consequences for their actions. Without qualified immunity, public officials could be personally responsible for all legal costs and fines.
Following the judge’s ruling that the defendants are acting in a private capacity, Falgiatore began calling on his fellow school board members to stop using taxpayer money to pay the legal expenses surrounding the lawsuit.
Falgiatore said that the school board should not be using taxpayer money to pay legal expenses for the defendants unless documentation could be provided from the solicitor that the board members have qualified immunity.
In addition to the letter his wife received at home, Falgiatore said he received a similar letter delivered to the police department. That note was also written in gray marker and included the text, “Tony – same offer that your wife and the JERKOFF received.”
The note also said, “if you hate OSD [Octorara School District] then MOVE!!”
He said social media posts spread about him and his wife claim that they helped set up the lawsuit to trap the district.
Those claims “couldn’t be…further from the truth,” Falgiatore said.
Falgiatore is neither a plaintiff nor a defendant in Miller’s lawsuit.