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Watertown woman sues Lake Placid police in federal court

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A Watertown woman’s unlawful imprisonment lawsuit against the Lake Placid Police Department has been moved from state Supreme Court in Jefferson County to U.S. District Court, Syracuse.

Taryn M. Stanfa, 21, of 533 Davidson St., filed state action in July against the village of Lake Placid, its police department, Officers James D. Staats and Matthew J. Braunius and Chief William P. Moore, claiming she was detained Jan. 21 by the two officers without probable cause.

According to the federal complaint, Miss Stanfa went to the Hannaford grocery store on the outskirts of the village about 5 a.m. Jan. 21, when the store was closed. She maintains that she was committing no crime, yet was detained by the officers without probable cause, and that her driver’s license and car and home keys were confiscated, leaving her unable to leave the area. She also was questioned about any drugs she may have taken. She also claims her vehicle was unlawfully searched without a warrant and without cause.

She further alleges that Mr. Staats pushed her against her vehicle and “violently pushed” her to her knees “with excessive and brute force,” and then pushed her to the ground with his knee in her back. The officer then allegedly “violently bent, twisted or pulled” her arms to place her in handcuffs.

After allegedly pulling Miss Stanfa from the ground by the handcuffs, she claims, the officer threatened to arrest her for assault of an officer and driving while intoxicated. Despite her request take a breath test to determine the presence of alcohol in her system, she claims Mr. Staats refused to administer one. After she had been held in the back of the patrol car for about 45 minutes, Mr. Braunius took the cuffs off her, allegedly saying, “I’m sorry for my partner’s reaction. You just made him a little upset.” It is claimed that while the cuffs were being removed, Mr. Staats threatened to pull Miss Stanfa’s car over if he ever saw her driving in the village again. She was not charged with any crime.

According to her complaint, the incident has led her to seek treatment with a mental health professional for “emotional and psychological injuries.” In addition to false arrest and false imprisonment, her complaint includes actions for assault and battery, negligence against the village, intentional infliction of emotional distress and violation of her state and constitutional rights.

The suit seeks $1 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages.

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