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11.00.2013

Howd & Ludorf, LLC Wins Defense Verdict for Meriden Police Department in Civil Rights Case

Howd & Ludorf, LLC, Partner Martha Shaw, has successfully defended the City of Meriden and six of its police officers in U.S. District Court on a claim brought by a mother and son after City officers executed a search warrant at their home, captioned Henderson v. City of Meriden, et al.  An eight person jury heard evidence that in December 2008, the Meriden Police Department received a complaint suggesting that a family member of the plaintiffs was engaged in prostitution at his strip club business.  The officers suspected that he kept records, money and other evidence from the prostitution business at his home or in a safety deposit box.  All lived in the same residence.

The Meriden police officers applied for a search warrant for the entire home, believing it to be a single family residence on the bases that the family member consistently reported his address with no apartment designation, surveillance of the home showed there was only one mailbox and the other surrounding houses were single family homes.  Prior to entering the home, the officers were briefed by the resident state trooper who had been to the house on several occasions and reported that it was a single family home.

The adult family member and his associate, Laura Kuhl, were arrested pursuant to an arrest warrant also issued on the same day.  The adult family member had keys to two safety deposit boxes in his possession when he was arrested.  The associate informed the police that he kept cash from the prostitution business in safety deposit boxes that may be in his mother’s name.  An officer confirmed that at least one of the keys belonged to one of their safety deposit boxes.  A judge issued a warrant for the contents of the box and the officers seized $90,000.00 in cash from the safety box in the mother’s name.  The mother presented no evidence of ownership of the currency and the adult family member forfeited the currency as part of his plea agreement.

Attorney Shaw argued to the jury that the officers reasonably believed the safety deposit box cash was related to the criminal enterprise and was not the personal property of mother.  The jury agreed and returned a verdict for the defendants on all counts.

The plaintiffs’ last settlement demand prior to suit was $200,000 and no offers were made by the defendants.

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