Jury Clears Liquor Police in Death of Transplant Patient
PITTSBURGH (AP) _ A jury has cleared two state liquor agents in a lawsuit over the death of a heart patient who was stricken during a raid on a party held to raise money for a transplant.
Albert Robitzer Jr., 43, died of a heart attack in 1988 after scuffling with agents looking for underage drinkers at the party, thrown by Robitzer’s family and friends.
A federal jury deliberated 11 hours over three days before rejecting a lawsuit alleging agents Robert Johnson and Clair Witkowski violating Robitzer’s rights. Robitzer’s family had sought unspecified damages.
Jurors refused to comment afterward after the verdict Monday.
Police had received a tip that there was a ″teen-age beer blast″ at the fund-raiser, according to testimony. Four minors were arrested for drinking at the Italian-American Social Club in Export, about 25 miles east of Pittsburgh.
According to witnesses, Johnson and Witkowski confronted a group in the club’s kitchen, and Robitzer intervened.
Johnson elbowed Robitzer in the rib cage, and Witkowski shoved him with the palm of his hand, witnesses said. Robitzer then clutched his chest, ran from the room and collapsed.
″I thought all along that we did nothing wrong. I was glad that the system worked,″ said Johnson, now a federal drug agent in Detroit.
Robitzer had been put on a hospital waiting list for a transplant and had carried a pager to the party in case a heart was found. He suffered from diabetes, weak arteries and a weak heart muscle.
U.S. District Judge William Standish dropped three other agents from the lawsuit last week.