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Two Men Unlawfully Searched and Falsely Arrested for Sitting in Vehicle Settle with Middletown, N.Y., Cops

by Christopher Zoukis

Patrick Ammirati and James Esposito, who were arrested and prosecuted over a speck that wasn’t even a drug after Middletown, New York, police found them suspiciously sitting in a vehicle in a parking lot, agreed to a settlement with the officers.

On January 7, 2009, Ammirati and Esposito were sitting in Esposito’s truck in a parking lot, allegedly waiting to meet a third person to pay for construction work. Police Officers Patrick Gass, Evan Colon and Fred Slanovec approached the vehicle and asked what they were doing. Without a warrant or probable cause, the police searched the vehicle. Slanovec claimed he saw drugs inside, and the two men were arrested and charged with drug possession.

Ammirati was able to post bail, but Esposito had to spend 11 days in jail before being released on his own recognizance. The charges were eventually dropped after the court found that the alleged evidence of drugs consisted of a single speck that was not even an illegal substance. The prosecution also failed to show that the officers had made plain-view observation of the alleged contraband.

On June 8, 2010, Ammirati and Esposito filed a complaint in federal court against Gass, Colon and Slanovec. They argued that the unlawful search, false arrest and malicious prosecution violated their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Esposito claimed that his arrest caused him to lose a $90,000 job opportunity. They sought compensatory and punitive damages, along with legal expenses.

The parties agreed on a settlement, the terms of which were undisclosed, and the case was dismissed on April 26, 2012, by Judge Lisa Margaret Smith.

See: Ammirati, et al., v. Gass, et al., United Stated District Court for the Southern District of New York, Case No. 1:10-cv-04496-LMS (Apr. 26, 2012)

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Related legal case

Ammirati, et al., v. Gass, et al.



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