Thomas Sander

Former Trinity High School principal Thomas Sander sits in on a hearing on April 21, 2014, at the Stark County Courthouse in Dickinson.

Forum News Service

DICKINSON -- The former Trinity High School principal who was charged with starting the March 3, 2014, fire at the school and later had his case thrown out has filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Dickinson, two Dickinson Police Department detectives, the Stark County sheriff and 10 unnamed parties Monday, claiming his rights had been violated during the investigation into the fire.

The lawsuit alleges that Thomas Sander was "subjected to unreasonable force," during his arrest and confinement by the police officers identified in the suit, which resulted in what the suit calls a "false confession" submitted in writing by Sander. He was charged with arson and endangering by fire March 4, 2014, but was exonerated when the case was thrown out in early July 2014.

Sander was arrested the day after the fire on the suspicion of arson and endangerment by fire and was later dismissed from his position at Trinity.

Dickinson Police detectives Kylan Klauzer and Jeremy Moser are directly named as defendants in the lawsuit, as is Stark County Sheriff Terry Oestreich, who was a police detective working the case at the time. Ten "doe defendants" are listed as people or legal entities whose identities are unknown, but who were engaged in law enforcement or investigative activities at the times relevant to the complaint.

The complaint states: "The sole basis for probable cause that existed for his (Sander's) arrest and subsequent confinement was the coerced false confession that came as a result of unreasonable force and coercion by Defendants."

It alleges that the former principal was subjected to "sleep deprivation, intimidation, bullying, threats, deception, lies and the withholding of bathroom facilities, food and water," and claims that defendants "acted intentionally to manipulate, hide, secret, withhold, and destroy exculpatory and other evidence critical to Tom Sander's defense."

The complaint claims Dickinson Police detectives "systematically worked to maintain the false charges against Tom Sander in spite of a complete lack of other evidence that Tom Sander set the fire and in spite of significant evidence that another individual was the arsonist."

The complaint points out that on March 5, 2014, the city and defendant police officers received a handwritten note from an individual claiming to have started the Trinity fire, more than one telephone call from an individual who indicated that he was the author of the note and the arsonist, and an in-person and unprompted voluntary confession to starting the fire from the same individual.

It also states that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives investigation into the Trinity fire resulted in findings incompatible with Sander's "false and coerced confession."

Sander's complaint alleges he was never properly advised of his Miranda rights during his arrest, the very reason why Stark County State's Attorney Tom Henning decided not to pursue charges against Sander. Judge William Herauf signed off on dismissing the charges on July 7, 2014, after he ruled to suppress statements Sander made after the first 1 hour, 55 minutes and 22 seconds of an interrogation Klauzer and Oestreich performed March 4 and 5, 2014.

Sander is alleging violations of the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, supervisor liability, false arrest and false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress, abuse of process, gross negligence, willful misconduct, deceit, unconstitutional practice and policy, unconstitutional discipline, training and supervision, defamation, vicarious liability, and deliberate fabrication and material omissions in an arrest warrant affidavit.

He is suing for damages, including expenses he occurred during his defense, loss of productive time, multiple items under "pain and suffering of body or mind," and "injury to his reputation."

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