7/22/2010 - Posted by:
Spinella & Associates
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Fighting For Wrongfully Arrested and Prosecuted Man Who Was Jailed For Two Years Before Acquittal

In this case, the Plaintiff (unnamed for confidentiality) was wrongfully imprisoned pursuant to an unjustified and constitutionally unlawful arrest for a period of 22 months before being acquitted after a trial in his criminal case. By way of introduction and in order and to provide general context, this 2000 case is representative of numerous cases handled by us where a criminal defendant, innocent of the charges placed against him, is imprisoned prior to his criminal trial pursuant to a financial bond that he cannot satisfy because he lacks he funds to pay a professional Bail Bondsman whom, under our rules of criminal procedure governing pre-trial release, are invested with nearly total and unaccountable decision-making regarding who is released after an arrest is made. As a result of the numerous cases of this kind, we ultimately brought a Class Action claim challenging the entire money bail system in Connecticut. This matter, presently the focus of vigorous prosecution in the Connecticut Superior Court, is discussed subsequently under Class Action claims. The history of the arrest and criminal prosecution which led to his acquittal and successful criminal prosecution are as follows: On or about October 4, 1996, Defendant Officer John Doe, prepared a false and misleading arrest warrant application and affidavit in support of the Plaintiff on that same day for criminal possession and sale of narcotics within 1,500 feet of a school. All these charges were based on alleged incidents which occurred on September 24, 1996 and September 25, 1996. The affidavit contained material omissions and misrepresentations of fact. Essentially, Officer Doe claimed to have probable cause to arrest the Plaintiff based on a purported controlled narcotics buy which he conducted, undercover, on September 24, 1996 and a second one, gone awry, the next day. The Plaintiff, who spent 22 months in jail awaiting trial before his acquittal, asserted, among other things, that he knew Officer Doe to be a police officer, had spoken to him two days before the first alleged drug buy while Officer Doe was in uniform, and that the undercover buy never occurred. Before the wrongful incarceration, which occurred from October 4, 1996 until April 6, 1998, Officer Doe, on September 22, 1996, dressed in uniform, entered the Plaintiff’s apartment building with another uniformed officer. As the two officers were leaving, the Plaintiff briefly spoke with the officers asking them essentially why they were there. A brief conversation occurred between the officers and the Plaintiff in which the officers responded that they were there looking for “Dave.” During this conversation, the Plaintiff spoke to Officer Doe, face to face. On September 24, 1996, at approximately 6:00 p.m., Officer Doe now wearing street clothes, returned to the Plaintiff’s apartment, where he approached the Plaintiff seeking to make a drug purchase from him. Plaintiff rebuffed his attempts and made it clear to him that he did not sell narcotics. Officer Doe persisted without success and eventually left the Plaintiff’s residence. On or about September 25, 1996, the Plaintiff, who was returning from lunch with a friend, was confronted by Officer Doe who again sought, “undercover”, to engage the Plaintiff in criminal activity by asking to purchase cocaine from the Plaintiff at the Plaintiff’s residence. Plaintiff refused to engage Officer Doe in any conversation concerning the purchase of any drugs and immediately identified Officer Doe as a police officer. Officer Doe persisted claiming he was not an officer and rather, had just recently been released from jail. The Plaintiff then asked his friend, who was in his apartment, to come outside which he did. His friend also identified Officer Doe as a police officer as both the Plaintiff and his friend, had had several opportunities to speak with Officer Doe, including just days earlier when he appeared at the Plaintiff’s residence, in uniform, with another officer looking for “Dave”, as well as while he was patrolling the neighborhood on his bicycle, also in full uniform. At that time, Officer Doe drew a gun on the Plaintiff and his friend ordering them to put their hands on the railing. Officer Doe never identified himself to be a police officer. Thereafter, Officer Doe asked another resident of the building to contact the police department, by calling “911", and telling the police to come to the Plaintiff’s address. The Plaintiff and his friend were placed in a police vehicle which had responded, evidently, to the “911" call made by one of Plaintiff’s neighbor at the behest of Officer Doe. While Plaintiff was seated in the vehicle, Officer Doe removed the Plaintiff’s key ring from a belt loop on his pants and proceeded to search the Plaintiff’s vehicle without probable cause or the Plaintiff’s permission. Thereafter, Officer Doe then searched the Plaintiff’s apartment, again without probable cause nor Plaintiff’s permission. Officer Doe did not find any narcotics, of any type or form, in the Plaintiff’s residence. The Plaintiff and his friend, were falsely arrested, without a warrant and with no probable cause, and charged with breach of peace. At the time of his arrest, the Plaintiff was not told why he was under arrest, nor was he advised of his rights pursuant to Miranda. The charge against Plaintiff was nolled on or about September 26, 1996, and the Plaintiff was released from custody. On or about September 27, 1996, Officer Doe once again arrested the Plaintiff without a warrant or probable cause and charged the Plaintiff with interfering with an officer and for breach of peace. During the arrest, Defendant Officer Doe and other officers sprayed the nonresisting Plaintiff with pepper spray. Following this assault and unlawful arrest of Plaintiff, Officer Doe bragged to other officers, including Officer John Doe 2, that “I got him,” referring to Plaintiff. On October 4, 1996, on the basis of Officer Doe’s false and misleading arrest warrant application and affidavit, the Plaintiff was arrested by Officer Doe and another officer. During this arrest, Officer Doe used unreasonable force in spraying the nonresisting Plaintiff in the face with pepper spray, throwing him to the ground, placing his knee in his back, forcibly handcuffing the Plaintiff, dragging him outside of his residence thereafter throwing him to the ground. Officer Doe then removed the Plaintiff’s eyeglasses which were never returned. Officer Doe then shoved the Plaintiff into the back of his police vehicle shouting obscenities directed to the Plaintiff. The Defendants then proceeded to further assault the nonresisting Plaintiff while he sat, handcuffed, in the back of the police cruiser, by striking him in the face with his own work boots, chipping a tooth and causing swelling and bruising to the Plaintiff’s left eye and face, respectively. The Plaintiff remained incarcerated until the date of his acquittal. On or about April 6, 1998, after a lengthy trial before a jury, at which Defendant Officer Doe did not testify, the Plaintiff was found not guilty of all charges, acquitted and released from custody. Following his acquittal, a lawsuit was brought in the Federal District Court against the Police Department and the municipality claiming the violation of numerous civil rights violations resulting in wrongful prosecution and imprisonment. More specifically, the lawsuit charged that the Defendants, each and all of them, failed to secure to the Plaintiff, unlawfully deprived the Plaintiff, or caused the Plaintiff to be unlawfully deprived of rights secured to him by the United States Constitution and by Title 42 United States Code §§ 1983, et. seq., in one or more of the following ways: 1. The Defendants unreasonably searched the Plaintiff’s home, and seized and carried away items, without legal cause or factual grounds; in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution; 2. The Defendants unlawfully arrested, confined and imprisoned the Plaintiff against his will, in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. As a result of the foregoing violations of the Plaintiff’s civil rights, it was claimed that the Plaintiff was caused to suffer the following injuries, some or all of which are likely to be permanent in nature: 1) loss of dignity, humiliation, and severe physical and emotional pain and suffering; 2) loss of privacy, independence, freedom of movement, and association and autonomy; 3) anxiety, fear, and trauma, associated with being unlawfully confined, harassed, coerced and intimated by the Defendant policy officers; 4) inability to engage in normal life activities; 5) payment of otherwise unnecessary legal fees and costs; 6) diminution of his ability to engage in his occupation and of his earning capacity; 7) physical injuries, to wit: bruises, contusions, broken tooth, and eye inflammation; 8) other health and dental problems as a result of the lack of medical and dental treatment Plaintiff failed to receive while awaiting trial. The bond was set at $50,000, surety, which the Plaintiff could not satisfy. The Plaintiff, who had a Plumbing Contractor Unlimited License (P-1), a Heating and Cooling Journeyman License (S-2), and a Fire Protection Contractor License (F-1), and was actively working when falsely arrested, lost his income, his licenses, a wealth of mechanics and other tools as well as all of his personal property while in jail. It took him almost a year after his acquittal to regain two of his three licenses, and he was unable to regain his Fire Protection Contractor License. In prosecuting the claim against the City, we retained a nationally recognized police expert to testify that: (a) the Hartford police had an inadequate policy in place regarding training and supervision of community service police officers as to conducting undercover narcotics buys; (b) the officers in this case were inadequately supervised in their activities; and (c) such deliberate indifference to the Plaintiff’s civil rights was a moving force behind their violation. In addition, the Plaintiff’s expert witness, based among other things upon his experience and training as a Hartford police officer, detective, sergeant, lieutenant and captain, and his Ph.D. in Criminal Justice, testified to the fact that the Plaintiff was arrested without probable cause and that the Defendants’ actions were inconsistent with acceptable police practice and exhibited deliberate indifference to Plaintiff’s rights. It was also his opinion that an investigation should have occurred and sanctions should have been implemented. In addition, we provided substantial documentary and testimonial evidence showing that the alleged undercover buys never occurred and that training and supervision were inadequate. The civil rights case, to the Client’s great satisfaction, was ultimately resolved in his favor on confidential terms.
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