Connecticut State Marshals Sued in Class Action Claim

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State Marshals sued in class action claim charging abuse of arrest powers by allowing ordinary civilians to participate in arrest sweeps depriving hundreds of residents of their Constitutional rights.

A lawsuit seeking class action status, Civil Action Number 3:07-cv-287(AWT), filed in U.S. District Court on February 23, 2007, alleges that three Connecticut State Marshals recruited civilians to participate in the arrest of hundreds of residents. Over a two to three year period, State Marshals John Barbieri, Brian Hobart, and Jon Gallup organized arrest sweeps, in which they allegedly brought along civilians to participate in the arrests, resulting in the unlawful arrests of at least 245 residents.

The lawsuit further states that members of the State Marshal Commission and Court Support Services are responsible for the unlawful arrests because they allegedly failed to do anything to protect residents against such unlawful conduct.

Under Connecticut law, State Marshals are authorized to make an arrest pursuant to a capias mittimus, a type of civil arrest warrant. Capias mittimi are issued by Court Enforcement Services for parents behind on child support payments. State Marshals Barbieri, Hobart and Gallup organized sweeps in order to make numerous capias arrests in short period of time. The State pays marshals $250 for each capias arrest.            

The sweeps often took place in the middle of the night or early in the morning. The marshals allegedly recruited at least two civilians, Michael Brown and Raymond Brown, to participate and assist in the arrests. The civilians were given jackets with the words "State Marshal" written on the front and back. The marshals allowed the civilians to enter residents home, detain them, and transport them to jail in law enforcement vehicles provided for by the State. Often times, the civilians were allowed to handcuff persons. The sweeps took place in the cities of Waterbury, Hartford and New Britain.

Court Support Services paid Michael Brown approximately $25,000 over a two year period for making dozens of arrests. The State Marshal Commission, responsible for overseeing the State Marshals, did not have policies or guidelines that prevented the marshals from making arrest with civilian non-marshals.    

During a sweep on October 21, 2006, the marshals, along with their civilian accomplices, entered the homes of Larry Mason and Odesto Rodriguez, both Waterbury residents, and arrested them. Mr. Mason and Mr. Rodriquez believed all the men who entered their homes were State Marshals with the legal authority to make arrests. The two men later learned that civilian non-marshals assisted in the arrests.

In order to defend their constitutional rights, Mr. Mason and Mr. Rodriguez have filed a civil rights action. Both the United States Constitution and Connecticut constitution protects persons from unreasonable seizures, which includes civilian participation in executing an arrest warrant, where the civilian's participation is not authorized under the warrant or necessary for making the arrest. The plaintiffs are seeking to have their civil rights case certified as a class action in order to redress the constitutional deprivation of all the residents illegally arrested during the sweeps over the past three years.

"This case goes beyond the typical police brutality or false arrest case we're used to seeing. It involves a systematic deprivation of constitutional rights, involving hundreds of residents, over a two or three year period," says the plaintiffs' attorney A. Paul Spinella, "and the State paid for it." "It is often the most disenfranchised, powerless, members of society that are subjected to greatest constitutional violations because they are the most vulnerable. In order to protect the constitutional rights of all residents, and deter such future abuses of power, it's crucial that we defend the constitutional rights of our most disenfranchised residents," Attorney A. Paul Spinella stated.

Over the past two decades, Spinella & Associates has successfully prosecuted hundreds of police misconduct and civil rights claims involving constitutional violations of every kind against individuals, municipalities and government agencies throughout the State of Connecticut and the New England region. The Spinella team is a group of determined trial lawyers who represent ordinary citizens against abuse of power by institutions. Spinella & Associates is located in Hartford, Connecticut and can be reached at 860-728-4900 or online at http://www.spinella-law.com.

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