- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 16, 2014

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Two city constables allegedly refused to accept a woman’s offer to pay off a warrant for an outstanding traffic ticket and instead handcuffed her and dragged her out of her home by her feet, prompting them to be charged with simple assault and other offenses.

Attorneys for the constables, Christian Constantini, 26, and Michael Lowman, 45, denied wrongdoing Tuesday and said their clients acted “professionally” even after the incident got “out of hand.”

The Allegheny County district attorney’s office said the constables knocked the phone out of the 50-something woman’s hand as she called a police official relative to intervene and told her she was going to jail even after her adult daughter first tried to pay the debt.

“Constable Constantini grabbed the check … crumpled it and threw it to the ground stating that they don’t take checks,” according to criminal complaints filed Monday by the DA’s office. When the woman’s daughter offered to get the money from an ATM three blocks away, the “constables ignored her and began to drag her mother out of the house by her feet.”

The incident allegedly happened at Esther Peyton’s Munhall home on Oct. 14 while her younger daughter, age 10, and 5-year-old grandson were also present, according to the complaints.

The charges are being mailed to the constables, who have been scheduled for a preliminary hearing Jan. 28 on the assault charge and counts of reckless endangerment, conspiracy and official oppression. The final charge stems from the constables’ alleged refusal to let the woman pay off the warrant and arresting her instead.

Peyton told investigators Constantini refused to show her the paperwork but told her how much she owed. She called her cousin, a police chief in a neighboring town, but the constables refused to speak with him and, Peyton claims, smacked the phone out of her hand. That official, West Homestead police Chief Christopher Deasy, told investigators he heard screaming and crying over the phone and a man’s voice saying, “Shut up” before the line went dead.

It wasn’t immediately clear why Peyton called Deasy since the ticket was issued by Pittsburgh police for parking in a spot reserved for another use. Court records show Peyton was found guilty and paid $105 in fines and court costs last month.

Constantini’s attorney, Blaine Jones, said his client served a lawful warrant and “performed his duties in a professional manner.”

Lowman’s attorney, Almon Burke, said the accusations are taken out of context or untrue and resulted from a situation that “got kind of out of hand” after Peyton called her police chief cousin.

“The charges are unfounded,” Burke said. “My client was performing his duty as a constable serving a warrant and acting professionally.”

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