NORWOOD — A Canton woman has filed a $2 million civil suit against a now-former village police officer, the police department and the village on claims of sexual battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and false imprisonment.
The suit, filed by Syracuse law firm Westfall Law PLLC on behalf of Kasey Maroney, follows the March 1 sentencing of Seth D. Donalis, the former village police officer who pleaded guilty on Oct. 18, 2018, in St. Lawrence County Court to two counts of felony third-degree receiving a bribe.
On Dec. 4, 2017, and again on Jan. 23, 2018, Mr. Donalis, 32, of 9 Hill Crest Ave., Massena, solicited, accepted or agreed to accept a sexual favor from Ms. Maroney and, upon the agreement, he would be influenced as a public servant.
During her testimony prior to Mr. Donalis’s plea, Ms. Maroney said she was offered to perform a sexual favor on Mr. Donalis to avoid the potential of being arrested.
On March 1, he was sentenced to six months in the St. Lawrence County jail and five years of probation.
The actions of Mr. Donalis were “so outrageous in character and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency and to be regarded as utterly intolerable in a civilized society,” that it caused Ms. Maroney severe emotional distress, the lawsuit stated.
“The sexual harassment, abuse and assault inflicted upon plaintiff included, but was not limited to, coerced inducement for oral sex in exchange for ensuring that plaintiff would not be arrested or that Social Services would not be called to take her son away, and sexual assault by using physical force to attempt to get her to perform oral sex on him by forcing her head and face down and onto his genitals,” the lawsuit states. “Defendant Donalis’s use of his position of power and authority were both willful and wanton. Defendant Donalis’s actions were severe, pervasive, and amounted to both physical assault and an unnecessary and wanton infliction of emotional distress and pain.”
Additionally, Ms. Maroney said her civil rights, under the Fourth and 14th Amendments of the United States Constitution and under New York State Law, were violated and is claiming that she sustained medically-diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder, requiring continued therapy to deal with her fear, anxiety, stress, terror and nightmares.
The lawsuit also claims that, following Mr. Donalis’s arrest, Ms. Maroney was harassed by other members of the village police department, with them pulling her car over on multiple occasions for trumped-up traffic violations.
The names of the officers alleged to have behaved in this manner were not listed in the suit.
Both Mayor Timothy A. Levison and current Police Officer in Charge Shawn J. Wells, declined to comment.
Mr. Wells was not a member of the department at the time Mr. Donalis was employed there and when the incident took place.
The lawsuit alleges that just prior to Mr. Donalis’s trial, Ms. Maroney was pulled over by village police and the officers tested her blood-alcohol level “as they claimed she was driving erratically.”
“Her blood-alcohol level was measured to be at zero and the tickets issued to her at that time were dismissed by the County District Attorney out of hand,” it states.
In her case against the police department and the village, Ms. Maroney is claiming their “unconstitutional customs, practices, and/or policies” were the moving force behind Mr. Donalis’s actions in allowing her to be sexually intimidated, harassed and assaulted and that the police department’s supervision of its officers was “so grossly negligent” that it allowed its officers to frighten and harass her, even after Mr. Donalis’s arrest, “up to the point of his trial in what could only be construed as an attempt to persuade her to alter her testimony against Defendant Donalis, with absolutely no consequence to their outrageous behavior.”
Citing the unrelated arrest of now-former Norwood police officer Christopher J. Ghostlaw just months earlier, the lawsuit states “Two officers, in a period of less than six months, were arrested for criminal activity in a police force of just nine officers. The vetting process, hiring practices and supervisory regulations used by the Norwood Village Police Department in selecting and supervising its officers are systematically deficient in that in 2018, two of the nine officers of that department were arrested and convicted of criminal charges.”
Mr. Ghostlaw was sentenced on Feb. 8 to five years’ probation for attempted third-degree grand larceny.
According to court documents, on May 17 at the Home Depot, 41 Stephenville St. in the village of Massena, Mr. Ghostlaw, while employed at the store, stole $29,196.32. At the time of his arrest, police said he was found in possession of a metal smoking device that had a white residue in it that tested positive for cocaine.
Following the trial, Ms. Maroney was fired from her job and missed out on “concrete and highly beneficial job opportunities, which was the direct and proximate result from Donalis’s conduct,” the suit claims.
“Kasey Maroney had a constitutional right to be free from unlawful sexual harassment, abuse, and assault while in the custody of the Norwood Village Police Department, including Defendant Seth Donalis,” the suit states. “Kasey Maroney demands judgment against defendants, including Defendant Donalis, for damages, costs, disbursements, attorney’s fees, interests, and for any other and further relief as this court deems just and fair.”
While the lawsuit doesn’t have an exact amount being sought, the court docket filed with the U.S. District Court Northern District of New York, were the claim is filed, shows $2 million as the amount demanded.