Schenectady County

Civil rights suit filed over intrusive search

A one-time local drug suspect, against whom a court found police used an illegal “visual cavity i


A one-time local drug suspect, against whom a court found police used an illegal “visual cavity inspection,” has filed suit against the department alleging civil rights violations and other claims.

Jonathan Gonzalez, 25, filed suit earlier this month in state Supreme Court in Schenectady County seeking as much as $3 million in damages.

Gonzalez filed the suit through his attorney Nicholas Grasso. Grasso could not be reached for comment this week.

Gonzalez was arrested May 16, 2006, following an undercover drug operation where he allegedly agreed to provide drugs. He was arrested and then strip searched for drugs and required to submit to a body cavity inspection. The drugs were allegedly found in Gonzalez‘ rectum.

He was convicted at trial and spent two years in state prison before being released in 2007.

Gonzalez had told undercover officers he would “get you whatever you need,” but the Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court found that not enough for police to do the more intrusive search.

The higher court decision came down in December 2008. As a result, the conviction was overturned and the case ultimately dropped for lack of evidence.

During a break in the proceedings where the charges were dropped earlier this year, Gonzalez could be heard indicating that he intended to file a lawsuit. Included as defendants in the suit are the City of Schenectady, as well as Detective John Maloney and officers Sean Daley and Eric Peters.

City Corporation Counsel L. John Van Norden said he was aware of the suit and the officers have been notified.

In all, Gonzalez makes claims of negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, malicious prosecution, false imprisonment and violations of the Civil Rights Act.

Representing Gonzalez at trial was attorney Mark Sacco. Sacco has said he encouraged Gonzalez to appeal after reading about a similar case in a law journal.

The Appellate Division ruled that it reviewed the record and found no evidence that would “lead the police to reasonably suspect that evidence was concealed in a body cavity, the police were not justified in conducting a visual cavity inspection.”

Sacco said earlier this year that he expected the Gonzalez case to be cited in future cases of defendants alleging illegal search.

The case has, however, helped result in one conviction on Gonzalez’ record. He was brought into the jail in December 2008, prior to the ruling, on parole violation, and found to have possessed a misdemeanor level of crack cocaine.

This time, however, Gonzalez volunteered the information, according to papers filed at the time.

He later pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of possession of contraband and was sentenced to 20 days in jail, records show.

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