Witness sues county, former assistant DA

A young woman who was jailed in 2007 as a material witness to ensure her appearance at the trial of

A young woman who was jailed in 2007 as a material witness to ensure her appearance at the trial of a former boyfriend filed suit Friday in state Supreme Court in Johnstown seeking unspecified compensation for false arrest and imprisonment.

Stephanie Flagler of Utica, represented by Utica attorney Lawrence W. Golden of The Golden Law Firm, accuses former Assistant Fulton County District Attorney Matthew E. Trainor of deceiving the court in order to obtain a material witness warrant and then to have her incarcerated before the trial of Brandon Becker, who was eventually convicted on two felony counts of criminal contempt.

The suit names as defendants both Trainor and Fulton County. It follows a federal court lawsuit filed in 2008 and dismissed in September. Golden has appealed the dismissal.

Trainor and his former boss, Fulton County District Attorney Louise K. Sira, could not be reached Friday for comment. Golden also could not be reached for comment.

According to the suit, Trainor, acting on information from Becker’s ex-wife, concluded Flagler was prepared to take a trip out of state before the trial and was not planning to return in time to testify at the March 12 proceeding.

But, the suit said, Flagler notified Trainor by phone and by fax March 6 that she was leaving March 8 and would return March 11.

Despite those notifications, the suit said, Trainor persisted in seeking the material witness warrant and Flagler was taken into custody March 7 by Utica police, handcuffed and eventually turned over to the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department.

At a March 7 hearing in state Supreme Court in Fulton County where Judge Richard T. Aulisi authorized incarceration, the suit said, “Trainor compounded his misconduct when he failed . . . to disclose to Judge Aulisi” that Flagler had notified Trainor twice on March 6 “that she would appear to testify at the trial on March 12.”

As a result, Flagler spent a night in jail “where she was forced to undergo a terrifying ordeal of almost 24 hours of incarceration.”

Flagler’s cellphone was also confiscated, the suit said, and records show someone in the district attorney’s office used it in an attempt to retrieve messages. The phone, taken without a warrant, has yet to be returned, the suit said.

In dismissing the federal suit, Judge Neal P. McCurn said, “Trainor was intimately associated with procuring the attendance of a witness for imminent trial, and as such, was cloaked in the protection of absolute immunity.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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