Fairfax Officers Testify In Lawsuit Over Arrest

By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 30, 2007

When Fairfax County Lt. Lance Schaible went to discuss a subpoena with a process server at the Sully police station in July 2005, he encountered a disheveled, foul-smelling man who was behaving erratically, "basically a homeless person," Schaible said.

The process server was Ronald W. Koch, 62, the Sully District planning commissioner for 22 years and a longtime community leader in the Centreville area.

But Schaible and two other officers said that when they tried to tell Koch that he had delivered the subpoena to the wrong place, Koch flew into a rage, stormed around the station "like a caged animal" and shoved Schaible in the chest, according to testimony this week in federal court.

Schaible had Koch handcuffed by Officer Sean Cheetham and arrested in the office of Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully). Frey intervened and had Koch released, but Koch said he had been humiliated for no reason.

A year after the incident, the police department had not apologized or disciplined the officers, and Koch sued them. They gave their side of the story publicly for the first time this week in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.

Koch and his witnesses told a different version of what happened in the police station July 27, 2005.

A jury will hear closing arguments this morning and try to decide whether Schaible and Cheetham are liable for unnecessary use of force, unnecessary seizure, assault and battery, false imprisonment and, with Lt. Michael Grinnan, conspiracy.

Koch is a retired federal computer specialist who supplemented his income by serving papers for lawyers and working as a planning commissioner appointed by Frey.

He testified that the run-in with police had so unnerved him that he will not accept reappointment to the Planning Commission, that he is giving up his process-serving business and that he and his wife are moving from his home of 27 years in Centreville.

"We don't feel safe living in Fairfax County," Koch said.

"Do you think that's rational?" asked David J. Fudala, the lawyer representing the officers. "Yes, sir," Koch answered.

A surveillance camera filmed Koch walking into the Sully station that afternoon two years ago. He does not appear disheveled, but the picture is not detailed. He stopped briefly in Frey's office to say hello, then walked to the police information booth and asked for a supervisor. Grinnan, then a sergeant, appeared and accepted the subpoena, he testified.

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