LAKE PLACID — A Saranac Lake college student has filed a $1 million lawsuit against Lake Placid Village Police.
The litigation seeks damages for invasion of privacy, unlawful imprisonment, false arrest, assault and battery, among other claims, stemming from an encounter with two Lake Placid Police officers last January.
The complaint alleges Taryn Stanfa was illegally detained between 5 and 6 a.m. Jan. 21 in the parking lot outside Hannaford’s in Lake Placid.
The 21-year-old college student claims two officers arrested her without cause, rummaged through her personal vehicle, handcuffed her and threw her to the ground with enough force to cause bruising and personal injury.
The young woman sought emergency medical care for bruises to her legs, wrists and ribs after she was released.
Lawsuit documents were filed in St. Lawrence County Court, where Stanfa’s family lives, and name two officers, James D. Staats and Matthew J. Braunius; the Lake Placid Village Police Department; and Chief William Moore.
Stanfa and Lake Placid attorney Matthew Norfolk, of the firm Briggs Norfolk LLC, filed a civil complaint last winter against Staats and Braunius shortly after the incident occurred.
But in a statement, Norfolk said, “after receiving the notice of claim, the Village of Lake Placid denied any wrong-doing and refused to honor Ms. Stanfa’s claim, asserting that the police officers are entitled to immunity.”
Both officers remain on the job, and Lake Placid Police Department has not released any details of an internal investigation conducted on the matter.
Moore could not be reached Monday for comment or to discuss the internal investigation. Village Attorney Janet Bliss was also not available Monday afternoon.
“The Police Department appears to have discontinued its internal investigation,” Norfolk said in the statement.
“Officers Staats and Braunius are still on duty, and Chief Moore has not taken any disciplinary action against either one of them.”
STOPPED IN PARKING LOT
The Jan. 21 encounter occurred early in the morning, when Stanfa and a female friend stopped to use a restroom at the Hannaford supermarket, which was lit and appeared open.
The pair were headed back to Stanfa’s Saranac Lake apartment after friends they had stayed with overnight went skiing.
Norfolk said in an earlier interview that Stanfa was looking for her keys when police pulled up behind her parked vehicle.
The two officers did not offer to help the women, she has said; instead, they started interrogating them and opened the rear door of Stanfa’s car.
“The police asked questions, and the way I understand it, asked about contents of her purse, which had a pocketknife and a bottle of prescription medicine in it,” Norfolk said. “And then, my client has stated, the police asked for driver’s license and registration.
“As she was sitting in the front seat, my client claims Officer Staats opened the back door to her car. My client then reports she protested to the interrogation and search, and said, ‘Hey, we haven’t done anything wrong.’”
Stanfa reportedly got out of the driver’s seat to close the rear car door.
“And that’s when Officer Staats threw her up against the car. Then he threw her against the ground and pushed her down and held her to the ground with his knee,” Norfolk said.
She said she was not read Miranda rights or charged with any offense, despite being handcuffed and placed in the backseat of the police vehicle.
The formal lawsuit claims Staats intimidated Stanfa and “verbally threatened to cause her harm and verbally threatened to unlawfully arrest and detain (Stanfa) if he ever saw her in the Village of Lake Placid again.”
The lawsuit seeks damages for “physical and personal harm and injuries, psychological harm and injuries, mental distress, emotional trauma, humiliation, embarrassment, stress, fear, anxiety, deprivation of civil and constitutional liberties and rights, and injury and harm to reputation and character.”
The lawsuit allows 30 days for response.
Email Kim Smith Dedam: firstname.lastname@example.org