False arrest and imprisonment lawsuit
To read the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York by a Utica woman against former Fulton County Assistant District Attorney Matthew Trainor, click here.
A young woman who was jailed as a material witness to ensure she testified at a March 2006 trial in Fulton County Court has filed suit in U.S. District Court seeking $2 million for false arrest and imprisonment.
Stephanie Flagler, a college student in Utica, contends former Fulton County Assistant District Attorney Matthew E. Trainor arranged to have her put in jail by misrepresenting to the court that she would not appear to testify at the criminal contempt trial of Brandon Becker.
Flagler, at one time Becker’s girlfriend, was one of two victims in the case.
Flagler, represented by the Utica firm of Lockwood & Golden, filed suit Feb. 5 seeking $1 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages, as well as attorney’s fees. Trainor and Fulton County are named as defendants.
Trainor, who resigned from the district attorney’s office early this year, could not be reached for comment.
Fulton County District Attorney Louise K. Sira said Trainor was “acting with the best information at hand at the time.”
Sira said the case was handled solely by Trainor and said it is evident there was some miscommunication between Trainor and Flagler.
“It was an unfortunate set of circumstances to get into with a victim,” Sira said of the case.
Flagler’s attorney, Lawrence Golden, was not available to comment Tuesday afternoon.
The suit accuses Trainor of making “false and fraudulent statements” to the court while concealing a March 6 fax and a phone call made by Flagler to the district attorney’s office affirming that she would appear to testify at the March 12 trial. The suit accuses officials of unlawfully confiscating her cellphone and examining it in an attempt to retrieve her messages. The phone has never been returned to her, the suit states.
Trainor, according to the suit, had information from Becker’s ex-wife that Flagler was planning to leave the state on the eve of trial. The suit contends Flagler never spoke to the ex-wife.
Flagler said she was arrested March 7 without warning on the basis of a Fulton County Court witness warrant and taken in handcuffs to the Utica Police Department and then transferred to the custody of state police and finally to the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department before appearing at a hearing in state Supreme Court in Johnstown.
As a result of that hearing before Judge Richard T. Aulisi, Flagler was ordered held. The suit contends Trainor first misled the courts to obtain the witness warrant and then misled Aulisi by concealing Flagler’s assurances that she would appear to testify.
Meanwhile, Becker, 24, of Fifth Avenue, Gloversville, was convicted at trial on two first-degree counts of criminal contempt and was subsequently sentenced to a prison term of one to three years.
The suit contends Trainor “compounded his misconduct when he failed on March 7 to disclose to Judge Aulisi, despite having a duty as an officer of the court to do so, that [Flagler] had called his office the day before … and faxed him a letter that same day … indicating both times her complete willingness to cooperate and assuring him that she would appear and testify at trial on March 12.”
The fax acknowledges that Flagler was planning a trip from March 8-11, but said she committed to appearing in court March 12.
After the March 7 hearing, she was handcuffed again and taken to Fulton County jail where she spent the night, the suit said.
The suit contends Trainor then disregarded “standards of ethical conduct” by attempting to interrogate Flagler at the jail despite knowing that Aulisi had appointed an attorney to represent her.
Flagler’s civil and constitutional rights were violated during her ordeal, the suit states.
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Categories: Schenectady County