LAKE PLACID - A Watertown woman has filed a lawsuit against two members of this village's police department for alleged assault and battery, as well as false arrest and unlawful imprisonment.
Taryn Stanfa, 21, filed the suit Thursday in Jefferson County Supreme Court - there instead of Essex County because that's where Stanfa and other witnesses live, according to her lawyer, Matt Norfolk of Lake Placid.
The suit names Lake Placid police officers James D. Staats and Matthew J. Braunius as defendants, as well as police Chief Bill Moore, the police department and the village. Stanfa is seeking $1 million for losses and damages suffered in a Jan. 21 incident in the parking lot of Hannaford supermarket, which is in the town of North Elba, just outside village limits.
"The lawsuit seeks monetary damages for emotional and bodily injuries and is intended also to ensure that the alleged conduct of the named Village Police Officers does not occur again within the Village of Lake Placid Police Department," Norfolk wrote in an email.
Village attorney Janet Bliss said Monday the village hasn't yet been served with the suit. She said she heard about it after the village received a phone call from a member of the press in Watertown.
Moore also said he hadn't seen a copy of the lawsuit.
"I don't think anyone should judge the officers until this has gone to court," Moore said. "There's more to this story. The public, when they know all of the facts, it will be different than what's perceived in legal documents."
The lawsuit alleges that between 5 and 6 a.m. on Jan. 21, Stanfa, then a student at North Country Community College, was thrown to the ground and injured by Staats without justification. A notice of claim filed with the village on Feb. 7 alleges that Staats threw Stanfa against a car, threw her to the ground and pushed her against the surface of the parking lot to handcuff her. Norfolk said the handcuffs were tightened to "such a severe degree to cause Ms. Stanfa substantial pain and personal injuries."
Stanfa claims that she and a friend parked at Hannaford supermarket because the store was lit up. They tried to use the bathroom, but were told by an employee the store was closed. Stanfa claims her friend was directed to the bathroom while she returned to her car and realized she had misplaced her keys.
Norfolk told the Enterprise earlier this year that state police called village police to have the situation checked out. When Staats and Braunius arrived at the scene, Stanfa was looking for her keys, he said.
Stanfa claims the officers asked what was in her purse. The contents included a pocketknife and a bottle filled with prescription medicine, which Norfolk said lawfully belonged to her. Norfolk said Stanfa claims Staats opened the back door to her vehicle, she objected, and that's when he threw her to the ground.
"Ms. Stanfa was then detained by Police Officers Staats and Matthew Braunius in a police cruiser for a significant period of time before being released without being charged with any offense," Norfolk wrote. "Ms. Stanfa sought emergency medical care for bruises on her torso, arms, legs and wrists as a consequence of the police officers conduct."
Norfolk said after the village received the notice of claim, it denied any wrongdoing and refused to honor her grievance, "asserting that the police officers are entitled to immunity."
Norfolk said he also filed a formal complaint with the police department earlier this year. He said the complaint sought a "thorough investigation" into the conduct of Staats and Braunius.
"However, the Police Department appears to have discontinued its internal investigation," Norfolk wrote. "Officers Staats and Braunius are still on duty and Chief Moore has not taken any disciplinary action against either one of them."
Moore declined to discuss the internal investigation because it's a personnel matter.
Contact Chris Morris at 891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.