Pa. state trooper gets jail time for punching DUI suspect

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Pennsylvania State Trooper John Sromovsky, left, leaves the Chester County Justice Center in West Chester with an unidentified supporter after he was sentenced to up to a year in jail on Thursday, June 7, 2018.

Pennsylvania State Trooper John Robert Sromovsky was a bully looking for a fight on Sept. 9, 2016, when he taunted, cursed at, and repeatedly punched a crying man who was handcuffed and belted into his seat in a patrol car, according to the Chester County District Attorney’s Office.

The unprovoked beating of Lorenzo Lopez, 25, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who was being arrested for DUI, was not the first time Sromovsky had roughed up a citizen while on duty — but it was the last time. The 11-year State Police veteran was sentenced Thursday in Chester County Court to 2½ to 12 months in the county Prison for his conviction by a jury last month of simple assault.

Sromovsky, 35, of Upper Chichester, Delaware County, was to be officially fired at midnight, a State Police spokesman said. He did not apologize to his victim, but thanked Judge Thomas G. Gavin for his time.

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Pennsylvania State Trooper John Robert Sromovsky covers his head with his suit jacket as he leaves the Chester County Justice Center after his sentencing.

After the hearing in West Chester, the bespectacled Sromovsky was photographed before he had a chance to hold his suit jacket over his head to hide from a news photographer’s flash. “Get that thing out of his face,” shouted an older man who had accompanied him to court.

“I think that it’s concerning that he still will not take responsibility for his actions,” Assistant District Attorney Cindy Morgan said after the hearing. The sentence, she said, “addressed the concerns of the commonwealth about how egregious the conduct was.”

Sromovsky’s attorney, Christian J. Hoey, said an appeal would be filed in federal court within 30 days. Gavin allowed Sromovsky to remain free on $500 bail pending a ruling on his appeal.

Reading from a statement, the judge said he hoped the video recording of the assault would be used at the police academy to teach future officers how not to behave. “Calm, cool, and collected is not a catchphrase,” the judge told Sromovsky. “It is what you are trained for.”

He lectured the somber-faced Sromovsky on the importance of the code of honor that the State Police has had since 1929. “If law enforcement is to be respected by the community,” Gavin said, “then you have to be above and beyond reproach.”

Sentencing Sromovsky to probation would “lessen the seriousness of the crime,” said the judge, adding: “No defenseless person should be struck.”

Sromovsky’s downfall began when he arrived at the scene of a DUI arrest on Gap-Newport Pike in Avondale to assist a fellow officer who had handcuffed Lopez and placed him in the front seat of his patrol car. Although Lopez posed no “immediate or obvious risk to others,” Sromovsky opened the car door and became hostile to the crying suspect, prosecutors said in court papers.

“‘I’ll give you a reason to cry, bitch,'” Sromovsky said to the man, they wrote. “Mere moments later, the defendant made good on this threat, striking Lopez in the face with a closed fist at least twice. Mr. Lopez had no means of defending himself. The defendant then shut the door to the vehicle and walked away as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred.”

Lopez was convicted of DUI and was turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. His current status was not immediately available.

Five years before that roadside confrontation, on Oct. 28, 2011, Sromovsky was recorded roughing up Mohammad Farvardin, an Iranian American civil engineer who had pulled his car to the side of a country road in Chester County to make a phone call. After reviewing video of the arrest, the District Attorney’s Office dropped charges of disorderly conduct against Farvardin, who received $80,000 in a civil settlement, according to Michael Reed, Farvardin’s attorney.