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False Arrests Based on Angry Divorcing Mothers?

It seems lots of policemen believe they are the "hero" when they falsely arrest fathers based on illegal evidence provided by vindictive ex-wives with obvious motives. A few successful $20 million suits like this are likely to stop this problem fast as sexual bias rules the day and constitutional rights are ignored.

By Rick Holland / Daily News Staff
Friday, July 29, 2005

BELLINGHAM -- He was cleared of child pornography charges more than one year ago, but former resident James P. Ciesluk still has an ax to grind with the Bellingham Police Department.

Ciesluk has filed a federal lawsuit against the Bellingham Police, alleging he was falsely arrested and imprisoned for more than three months in January 2002. Ciesluk's lawsuit also alleges that police illegally searched and seized property -- a computer and computer disks -- from his video arcade business, The Game Vault.

The civil suit, which was filed in December, does not specify a dollar amount being sought by Ciesluk, and his Boston-based attorney, Frances Robinson, will be out of her office for the next two weeks, according to a receptionist.

Ciesluk is believed to be living in the Framingham area but could not be reached for comment.

The computer and disks were confiscated without a search warrant, after Ciesluk's estranged wife, Donna, gave Bellingham Police a single computer disk that she said belonged to Ciesluk and allegedly contained a pornographic image of a young girl.

At the time, Ciesluk's defense lawyer, Edward Ryan Jr., argued that Bellingham Police seized the computer and disks illegally, because they did not have a search warrant. Bellingham Police Lt. Kevin Ranieri responded that police had simply confiscated the computer and disks to keep any files from being deleted while they obtained a warrant.

"Nothing was looked at until a search warrant was secured," Ranieri said at the time.

Ciesluk's case was set to go to trial in April 2003, but after additional investigation, the child pornography charges and another involving violation of a restraining order were dropped in June 2004.

The Board of Selectmen recently met in closed session to discuss Ciesluk's lawsuit, and the insurance company covering the town has hired special defense counsel to represent Bellingham.

"We're basically in the discovery stage of the (legal) process," said Town Administrator Denis Fraine. Police Chief Gerard Daigle is named in Ciesluk's lawsuit, along with officers Edward Guzowski, Brian Kutcher, Peter Lemon, John Melanson and Richard Perry.

"This kind of stuff happens from time to time," said Daigle. "We get sued...but I would do what we did again in a heartbeat and I stand behind the actions of our officers.

"It would be completely different if our guys were beating people up and we were getting sued for police brutality."

Daigle said he and other members of the Police Department have given depositions as a result of Ciesluk's lawsuit, but the chief declined to comment further on the case because it is in litigation.

The Bellingham Police Department was also the target of a federal lawsuit in connection with an instance of false arrest in November 2003. In that case, Modesto Montero was led away from his family of five children in handcuffs the night before Thanksgiving.

Bellingham cops hauled off Modesto, telling him he was wanted by police in Pennsylvania. He then spent nearly 48 hours in a holding cell, before it was determined that the warrant had been issued for someone named Gumercindo Montero.

Modesto Montero later filed a $20 million federal lawsuit against the town and Patrol Officer Kenneth Jones. Montero's case is also still in the discovery phase, according to Fraine.

A comprehensive insurance policy is covering the town for both the Montero and Ciesluk lawsuits, so Fraine said the maximum amount the town could pay would be a $5,000 deductible for each case. The town pays about $300,000 annually for its insurance policy, which provides property, casualty and liability coverage.

"We've been able to obtain good (insurance) coverage at a good rate because of our (claims) history," said Fraine.