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Lawsuit: former Watertown man claims unlawful detainment in shoplifting investigation

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A former Watertown man has filed federal suit against a retailer and several police officers, claiming he was wrongfully detained during a shoplifting investigation.

Al A. Givans, Bridgeport, Conn., filed action Friday in U.S. District Court, Syracuse, against Kmart and its parent company, Sears Holding Corp., as well as several members of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, Watertown City Police Department and state police.

Mr. Givans claims he went to the Kmart store at 21110 Pioneer Plaza on May 2, 2012, with a female acquaintance. In the parking lot, he ran into two other acquaintances, exchanged brief pleasantries and entered the store with them before going separate ways. Mr. Givans maintains he did not plan to meet the two acquaintances at the store and did not shop with them.

According to the complaint, Mr. Givans and his female acquaintance bought, on layaway, a 50-inch Panasonic television, for which he was given a receipt. He claims that as he and his friend left the store, a female loss prevention employee questioned him about his other two acquaintances in the store. Mr. Givans said that he “didn’t know what (the employee) was talking about” and tried to leave the store. At that point, law enforcement arrived and the loss prevention employee pointed out Mr. Givans and his female acquaintance to police.

Mr. Givens contends that he showed police his receipt, but his acquaintance’s bag was still searched in plain view of Kmart customers and employees. When Mr. Givans and his acquaintance protested, they were handcuffed, again in plain view of shoppers and workers. Mr. Givans and the woman subsequently were charged with disorderly conduct.

However, Mr. Givans claims that before his arrest, one of his acquaintances encountered in the parking lot had told police that Mr. Givans had no involvement in the shoplifting incident, which led to the other two acquaintances, a man and a woman, being arrested on petit larceny charges.

Mr. Givans claims his constitutional rights against unreasonable search and seizure were violated, as he was detained without probable cause and had committed no crime. He also maintains that he was subjected to malicious prosecution, essentially arguing that if he had not been wrongfully detained, he would not have been placed in a position that resulted in his being charged with disorderly conduct.

The suit does not state an amount being sought for damages. Mr. Givans is represented by Sackets Harbor attorney Charu Narang.

Ms. Narang also represents Deputy Krystal G. Rice, who has filed a lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Department and a detective, claiming the detective took topless photos of her for use in an online pedophile investigation, but the photos no longer can be accounted for and she has no way of knowing how the photos were used or who viewed them.

Ms. Narang also has filed a notice of claim on behalf of Michele R. Bowens, a twice-convicted felon now in prison, who claims now-retired Undersheriff Andrew R. Neff sent her unwanted photos of a male’s genitals on his county-issued cellphone.

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