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Watertown man claims false arrest by city police

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A Watertown man who was charged with harassment after what he contends was a mutual case of road rage has filed a federal lawsuit against city police claiming false arrest.

Donald W. Mott filed action Monday in U.S. District Court, Syracuse, against the department and one of its officers, Mark A. Lamica. The action stems from Mr. Mott’s arrest on Sept. 29, 2012, when he was charged with second-degree harassment after another man claimed Mr. Mott followed him in his vehicle and threatened him.

According to the suit, Mr. Mott and a second motorist, identified in the suit as Dustin M. Houppert, Watertown, arrived at the four-way intersection at Sherman and Mullin streets, where Mr. Houppert allegedly passed a stop sign out of turn, causing Mr. Mott and a third, uninvolved motorist to slam on their brakes. Mr. Mott, 40, claims Mr. Houppert, 27, gave him a “dirty look” and gestured for Mr. Mott to proceed, which he did as he prepared to turn into his driveway on Mullin Street.

He claims as he was turning, Mr. Houppert’s vehicle came up behind him at a high rate of speed and “screeched around” his vehicle, with Mr. Houppert allegedly yelling profanities and making a hand gesture in Mr. Mott’s direction. Mr. Mott then followed Mr. Houppert’s vehicle to the intersection of Mullin and Holcomb streets, rolled down his window and asked him why he had “driven recklessly down the street” and sworn at him. He claims Mr. Houppert “answered with another extended slew of profanities and death threats.”

Mr. Mott then followed Mr. Houppert to Coffeen Street, but when Mr. Houppert turned onto VanDuzee Street, he stopped, going instead to the YMCA at the fairgrounds. As he left the YMCA, he claims he encountered Mr. Houppert again and that Mr. Houppert “began his threatening behavior” again and told Mr. Mott to follow him to Jefferson Community College, where Mr. Mott was an adjunct professor. The pair met with security guards, who took statements from both men. Later that day or the next, Officer Lamica came to Mr. Mott’s home to discuss the matter and ask if Mr. Mott wanted to press charges.

He said he did not “because he believed the matter had been diffused” and that he would only bring charges if Mr. Houppert pursued the matter. He said he spoke to Officer Lamica for less than two minutes, but two weeks later the officer arrived at his home to arrest him for alleged harassment, a charge that was dismissed in City Court six months later.

Mr. Mott claims, among other things, the matter was never fully investigated, as the officer did not interview Mr. Mott’s girlfriend, Modesta Geyer, who was in the back seat of his vehicle during the encounter with Mr. Houppert. He further claims that the security guard at JCC who took his statement “is on the same sports team” as Mr. Houppert and may have encouraged Mr. Houppert to file a more detailed statement than the one Mr. Mott was afforded.

Mr. Mott, who is a 90-percent-disabled military veteran, according to the suit, was held at the Metro-Jefferson Public Safety Building for more than 16 hours and had to sit or sleep on a hard bench that is little more than 18 inches wide, which “caused agony” to Mr. Mott. He also claims he was denied multiple prescription medications he takes daily for pain, leaving him in “extreme pain and duress.”

Mr. Mott, who ran unsuccessfully for the Watertown Board of Education in 2010, maintains that there was no legal justification for his arrest and he was denied due process. His suit does not specify an amount being sought in damages.

He is represented in the action by Sackets Harbor attorney Charu Narang.

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