Philly woman accused of road rage by city prosecutor sues over ‘unjustified’ police arrest

Anthony Voci (left) with District Attorney Larry Krasner

Anthony Voci (left) with District Attorney Larry Krasner in 2019. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

The woman accused last fall by Philadelphia’s top homicide prosecutor of trying to run him off the road has filed a civil lawsuit against him.

Khasandra Franklin’s suit also names a deputy commissioner with the Philadelphia Police Department and more than half a dozen detectives and officers who played a role in her “unjustified and unlawful arrest” outside her East Mt. Airy home later the same night.

“Ms. Franklin did not engage in any criminal activity and did nothing to justify her arrest, incarceration and prosecution,” wrote Leonard Hill, one of Franklin’s attorneys.

Filed Monday in Common Pleas Court, the 15-page complaint accuses Assistant District Attorney Anthony Voci, Deputy Police Commissioner Benjamin Naish, and others of trying to frame Franklin during an ordeal critics say stemmed from an abuse of power.

The suit additionally accuses an unnamed 14th Police District sergeant of striking Franklin outside of her home while Franklin was on the phone with a friend.

A similar lawsuit may be filed in federal court, said Lynn Nichols, another of Franklin’s attorneys.

Franklin’s lawyers assert the Sept. 16 incident caused their client “to suffer a loss of liberty from pretrial detention as well as extreme emotional harm and distress at the prospect of having to defend herself at trial and potentially face significant jail time.”

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the lawsuit. “We do not comment on litigation involving our office,” said spokesperson Jane Roh.

A police spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The complaint comes less than two months after Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro withdrew all charges against Franklin during a lightning-quick hearing in front of a trial commissioner.

Franklin was initially charged with aggravated assault, a felony, as well as possession of an instrument of crime, simple assault, tampering with evidence and obstruction, according to court records. Those charges were later dropped, leaving reckless driving and reckless endangerment. Those offenses were cleared after Franklin agreed to go through “a drug and alcohol evaluation,” according to Shapiro’s office.

Franklin was arrested on Sept. 17, after Voci — then the city’s top homicide prosecutor — told police the 25-year-old ran him off the road as he made his way home from a murder scene on his motorcycle. Police towed her car, and Franklin, who is Black, was held in police custody for 24 hours before the most serious charges against her were dropped.

Voci, who is white, said Franklin had swerved directly in front of him on Kelly Drive, forcing him to ride the edge of the road to “avoid being struck,” according to a police report obtained by WHYY News. Franklin countered that Voci had been the aggressor, placing his bike in front of her and calling her and her passenger “Black bitches,” which Voci has denied.

Two months after his run-in with Franklin, Voci was reassigned from supervisor of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office and Non-Fatal Shooting Unit to a prosecutor in the insurance fraud division of the office’s Economics Crimes Unit.

His salary remains $159,566, according to Roh.

Lawsuit: Police sergeant struck Franklin, knocking cell phone to the ground

According to the lawsuit filed Monday, Voci told a 911 dispatcher the night of the incident that Franklin “tried to f—king tried to kill me.”  The dispatcher then immediately classified the call as “Priority 1” — the highest classification for a civilian or an officer in need of assistance.

At approximately 11 p.m., as Franklin watched from her apartment window, a black SUV arrived at her home address, per the suit.

Voci exited from the car’s passenger side, and Deputy Commissioner Naish exited from the driver’s side, then approached a group of police officers who were already surrounding Franklin’s parked car down below, according to the complaint.

At approximately 4:30 a.m. on Sept. 17, a police tow truck arrived and began to back up towards Franklin’s car, prompting Franklin to go outside to determine why, according to the suit. Officer Khaleel Lindsey-McFadden, allegedly acting upon orders from Voci and Naish, told Franklin her car was being towed in connection to a homicide investigation.

Franklin immediately called her friend. While she was on the phone, the lawsuit alleges, the unnamed sergeant struck Franklin, “causing her cell phone to disconnect and fall to the ground.”

Soon afterwards, she was arrested and placed in the back of a police transport wagon. She was detained at police headquarters before being released on her own recognizance, the suit says.

“At no time between the date of Ms. Franklin’s arrest and the dismissal of her charges did any of the defendants involved in this case notify the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office or any police investigator that their reports of these events were based on intentional deceit and falsehoods,” wrote Hill, one of Franklin’s attorneys.

The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages, but does not cite a specific monetary figure. It alleges false arrest, false imprisonment, assault and battery, and malicious prosecution, among other counts.

It could take up to two years to settle the suit, said Nichols, Franklin’s other attorney, adding that they hope it doesn’t take that long. “She’s willing to go to trial if it has to go to trial, but of course she hopes they don’t,” said Nichols.

“She just wants justice here,” Nichols added. “It should have been a traffic incident — if that.”

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