Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Falsely accused teens strike back

Teens file lawsuit against city, police department

SALAMANCA — Two Salamanca teenagers who claim they were falsely accused of raping a Salamanca woman last February have filed suit against the City of Salamanca and the Salamanca Police Department.

A Syracuse law firm, Sugarman Law Firm LLP, filed the lawsuit in state Supreme Court on Feb. 1 on behalf of Joshua J. Kinder and Shane M. Gogel, who are now both 18 years old.

The Salamanca teens were indicted Feb. 19, 2009, on first-degree rape, third-degree rape and third-degree assault stemming from a December 2008 incident in the city of Salamanca.

Police arrested them on rape charges following the incident, but they claimed to have had consensual sex with a then 18-year-old Salamanca woman.

In June, County Court Judge Larry M. Himelein dismissed the indictments, calling grand jury testimony by Salamanca Police Sgt. Ronda Stanton “untrue” and “clearly prejudiced” the grand jury presentation.

The charges were represented to a grand jury in August. The grand jury declined to indict either Mr. Gogel or Mr. Kinder, and they were released. They were held 175 days on $10,000 bail each, lawyer Sam A. Elbadawi of Sugarman Law Firm stated.

The law firm representing the teens served notice of claim on the city and the police department in August, but received no reply.

The lawsuit filed last week with the Cattaraugus County Clerk’s Office in Little Valley lists no specific monetary damages but cites the teens’ incarceration from the time of their arrest, as well as “personal injuries, pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, loss of income, humiliation, indignities, embarrassment, injury to reputation, permanent loss of psychological, social and physical development restrictions on all forms of personal freedom.”

Also, the lawsuit states: “Despite the absence of probable cause, the malicious prosecution of plaintiffs was deliberately, negligently and recklessly orchestrated by defendants due to the false grand jury testimony by Sgt. Ronda Stanton and defendants’ failure to properly consider evidence from a material witness.”

Salamanca Police Chief Troy Westfall declined to comment on the advice of counsel.

City Attorney Ross Peters said the city had denied the claim after it was received, and the lawsuit has been turned over to the city’s insurance carrier.