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Former Officer Files Federal Lawsuit Against Ansonia Police Chief

by STAFF | Feb 27, 2013 6:26 pm

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Posted to: Ansonia

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A former Ansonia police officer accused and later acquitted of stealing a garden hose from the department has filed a federal lawsuit against Ansonia Police Chief Kevin Hale, Lt. Andrew Cota, the state trooper who investigated the case and several other Ansonia police officers.

In the lawsuit, the former officer, Mustafa Salahuddin, alleges Hale and the others conspired to have him arrested in an attempt to force him out of the Ansonia Police Department.

“As a consequence of the wrongful actions of the defendants described above, the plaintiff was arrested and prosecuted, was required to stand trial as an accused thief, was caused to incur substantial expenses for his defense, experienced widespread and prolonged adverse publicity, suffered severe emotional distress, anguish, humiliation and disgrace, and was forced to leave his position as an Ansonia Police Officer and to abandon his law enforcement career,” Salahuddin’s attorney, John R. Williams, states in the lawsuit.

Salahuddin is seeking compensatory damages, punitive damages, along with attorney fees and costs.

A dollar amount is not mentioned.

Williams was out of the country and unavailable to comment, according to a person answering the phone at the law firm Wednesday.

The federal lawsuit was filed Tuesday, Feb. 26.

Hale said Wednesday evening that he had not yet gotten a copy of the document.

“It’s pending litigation that we haven’t even seen yet, so I’m not going to comment at this time,” Hale said.

Cota, a police administrator also named in the lawsuit, said via e-mail he could not comment because he hadn’t seen the allegations.

Salahuddin was charged in 2008 with sixth-degree larceny after police accused him of stealing a newly-purchased garden hose from the police department.

The low-level charge made it all the way to a jury trial. Click here to read the Valley Indy’s comprehensive coverage of that trial.

Salahuddin, who is Muslim, had claimed that he had been repeatedly retaliated against by department leaders because of his race and his religion. Ansonia police flatly denied the accusation.

The jury in 2010 took about 30 minutes to declare Salahuddin not guilty.

The lawyer who represented Salahuddin in the criminal trial, Rob Serafinowicz, said Wednesday that the ordeal took a significant toll on the ex-cop.

“The guy got screwed, plain and simple,” Serafinowicz said.

The video below shows Salahuddin with his family reacting to the jury’s verdict outside the Derby court house in 2010.

In addition to Hale and Cota, the other defendants named in Salahuddin’s federal lawsuit include Ansonia police Lt. Wayne Williams and Anthony Buglione, the trooper who investigated the accusations against Salahuddin and prepared a warrant for his arrest.

The lawsuit states that Buglione’s affidavit for an arrest warrant included “false and malicious statements” made by Ansonia police brass.

In an interview with the Valley Indy shortly after Salahuddin was found not guilty, Hale, the Ansonia police chief, said he followed proper procedures.

The chief testified during Salahuddin’s three-day misdemeanor trial in 2010 that he watched a surveillance video that showed Salahuddin steal a coiled, 75-foot hose from the police department.

Hale brought in an outside agency — the state police — to investigate. State police eventually sought an arrest warrant for Salahuddin.

“I’m clear that if I didn’t take some type of action to look into that, then I wasn’t doing my job. Faced with those circumstances today, I would do the same thing,” Hale said at the time.

Salahuddin retired from the Ansonia Police Department in 2010.

In May 2010, the Ansonia Board of Aldermen voted to pay Salahuddin’s legal bills.

The garden hose, by the way, was preserved as evidence after the criminal trial in anticipation of a civil lawsuit.

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