Man accused of raping ex-girlfriend files lawsuit
WILLIAMSPORT - A 35-year-old Sunbury man accused of raping his ex-girlfriend in November 2011 has filed a federal lawsuit against Point Township, its police department and chief and a former officer who charged him, claiming his civil rights were violated because he was falsely arrested and incarcerated.
Benjamin Scott Scheller, of 129 Reagan St., is seeking more than $500,000 plus punitive damages and attorney fees in his suit that lists Point Township, Point Township Police Department, Chief of Police Joshua Van Kirk and former officer Wade Lytle as defendants.
Scheller, who is represented by Attorney Michael Rudinski of Williamsport, filed the suit Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Williamsport.
In addition to his civil rights being violated, Scheller has accused the defendants of conspiracy, malicious abuse of the legal process and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
In his complaint, Scheller claims Lytle did not officially interview the alleged victim until nearly four months after the alleged incident, which allegedly occurred on Nov. 27, 2011. Scheller claims Lytle interviewed the victim on March 4, 2012, and arrested Scheller on March 13, 2012.
Prior to arresting Scheller, neither Van Kirk nor Lytle ever spoke to the plaintiff about the sexual assault/rape allegations, according to the suit.
The suit also states Scheller and the victim were involved in a consensual sexual relationship that preceded Nov. 27, 2011, and continued until February 2012.
Scheller also contends his incarceration allowed Lytle to continue his personal relationship with the alleged rape victim.
In September 2012, the alleged victim gave birth to a child, whose father is Scheller, according to the suit.
The plaintiff was not present for the birth of his child due his alleged false incarceration. But the suit says Lytle was present for the birth of the child.
Scheller, who was released on $1 bail Dec. 17 after nine months in jail, pleaded guilty to misdemeanors of terroristic threats, unlawful restraint and simple assault in February and was sentenced by Northumberland County Judge Charles H. Saylor to 9 to 23 months. Since Scheller had already served the minimum, Saylor gave him credit for time served and granted immediate parole.
Saylor granted him nominal bail because prosecutors failed to bring his case to trial within six months of his arrest. Pennsylvania Rule of Criminal Procedure 600 requires defendants who are in prison to be tried within 180 days and ones who are free on bail to be tried within 365 days.
In a case that exposed several potential conflicts of interest and led to the dismissal of Lytle, Scheller also was ordered to serve two years consecutive probation on an additional count of simple assault and false imprisonment and must pay fines, costs and fees.
Felonies of rape, sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault and burglary, and a misdemeanor of indecent assault were not prosecuted under the plea agreement.
Scheller was sentenced to 3 to 8 months each on the terroristic threats and unlawful restraint charges, and received a sentence of 3 to 7 months on the simple assault offense.
Scheller was charged with brandishing a semi-automatic handgun, zip-tying the victim to a chair and sexually assaulting her Nov. 27, 2011, at the victim's Point Township home.
The alleged rape victim was dating Lytle as of the fall of 2012. Also, the victim is a cousin to Van Kirk.
Lytle, who had been a full-time officer with the department since the end of 2009, was placed on administrative leave with pay by Point Township supervisors Oct. 30 after informing Van Kirk on Oct. 18 that he had a romantic relationship with the victim. He was terminated by supervisors Nov. 5.
Lytle formerly served as a Sunbury police officer and deputy sheriff for Northumberland County.
President Judge Robert B. Sacavage and Judge William H. Wiest recused themselves from hearing the case because a secretary in the judges' office had been romantically involved with Lytle.