Civil rights lawsuit against New London police, city moves forward

New London - A federal civil rights lawsuit brought by city resident Lance Goode against former New London police officer Roger Newton, five other officers and the city is going forward.

Goode is suing the police for allegedly planting drugs on him on Oct. 20, 2010, and claims that officers used excessive force and falsely arrested him on April 29, 2010.

U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton issued a ruling March 14 denying motions to dismiss claims against patrolmen Todd Lynch, Wayne P. Neff, David McElroy and Kyle Gorra, Sgt. Lawrence M. Keating and the city.

Newton's lawyer, Elliot B. Spector of Hartford, did not file a motion to dismiss.

The judge dismissed a section of the claim involving the Connecticut Constitution, ruling that "no private right of action exists for money damages." Attorneys involved in the case said the dismissal narrows the claim, but that the case in general is moving ahead to the next stage.

Goode's attorney, Conrad O. Seifert, declined to comment on the ruling. Goode had been represented also by attorney Hope C. Seeley, but she withdrew from the case after being nominated as a state Superior Court judge.

In the next phase of the lawsuit, the defendants are expected to file motions for summary judgment claiming there are no material factual issues to be tried.

"It's going forward, but I personally think it will be dismissed at the summary judgment stage," said Hartford attorney Michael J. Rose, who is representing the city, Keating, Neff, McElroy and Gorra.

Lynch's attorneys from the James, Newhall, Tallberg firm of West Hartford declined to comment on the ruling. Lynch, a city native and former state police sergeant who joined the department in November 2007, is the president of the police union.

Lynch had sought dismissal from the claim, saying he was not present when Goode was arrested in April 2010. According to the court documents, Lynch had posted a "no trespassing" letter identifying Goode at a New London Housing Authority complex where his mother lived.

Goode's visit to his mother resulted in his arrest on charges of trespassing, interfering with an officer, assault on a police officer and possession of narcotics. In a struggle with the other officers in the suit, he claims he was shot several times by a stun gun, smashed into a wall and broke his elbow. A New London prosecutor dismissed the charges, saying the "no trespassing" letter against Goode should never have been issued, according to the lawsuit.

Judge Arterton ruled that Lynch need not have actually applied Goode's handcuffs, nor even have been present, to be personally involved in his false arrest.

"In short, it is plausible that Officer Lynch caused - and was thus personally involved in - Plaintiff's false arrest for criminal trespassing," Arterton said.

Goode has sued Newton, the department's former canine officer, claiming he planted a bag of oxycodone near Goode's car during an Oct. 20, 2010, arrest. Goode obtained a copy of the police cruiser video showing the traffic stop and arrest in January 2012, and Newton was placed on administrative leave after it was made public.

Newton resigned from the department after the police administration agreed to drop its internal investigation of the incident.

The lawsuit claims the city failed to properly train and supervise Newton. While calling it a "close question" in her ruling, the judge noted that both of Goode's claims share the common thread of "manufactured criminality."

The judge noted also the existence of a federal lawsuit brought by Francisco Francovilla, who claims he was falsely arrested in July 2009. That suit also contains claims of false arrest and manufactured criminality, according to the judge.

"The New London police force is relatively small, consisting of approximately 80 sworn officers," the ruling says. "In light of the small size of the police force, the prior allegations of falsifying police reports in 2009, and the continued practice of falsifying reports in 2010, the court finds that it is plausible that (the city ) had an informal custom of 'tolerating police misconduct' and that this caused the violations alleged."

Goode, 43, has several felony drug convictions on his record and told The Day he has been arrested more than 30 times by New London police.

k.florin@theday.com

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