Court tosses suit by man claiming he was robbed at police station
WOONSOCKET – A Superior Court judge has thrown out a civil suit filed by a man who claimed a bail commissioner stole $100 from him at police headquarters after he was arrested for disorderly conduct in 2007.
Hakeem Pelumi argued that he was entitled to civil damages resulting from the alleged larceny and for the intentional infliction of emotional distress caused by the actions of police officers who handled his arrest.
Judge Brian Van Couyghen decided that Pelumi was entitled to neither, however, concluding that the plaintiff’s claims were baseless.
In an 18-page decision, the judge said Pelumi “failed to present any genuine issues of material fact to demonstrate a single element of a...case of intentional infliction of emotional distress...” or “...that the Woonsocket defendants are civilly liable to Plaintiff for any purported larceny.”
Bail Commissioner Richard Finnegan was not a party to the suit, but Pelumi – acting as his own lawyer in the case – argued that various police officers who were present at his arraignment could be held liable for his actions.
Van Couyghen disagreed, saying Finnegan is an independent contractor and
city employees may not be held “vicariously liable” for his actions.
According to the ruling, there was no factual allegation of a larceny other than the plaintiff’s claim that police officers were “watching and laughing” while Finnegan “went into my money, took one hundred dollar bill out, put it on the side, and say here, ‘Take your money and get out of here.’”
The money was supposedly removed from one of Pelumi’s socks.
The city’s lawyers advised the court that there was no videotape available of Pelumi being processed at police headquarters.
After reviewing the sworn statements given in the case, Van Couyghen concluded that whatever emotional distress Pelumi suffered as a result of his arrest fell short of the bar required for an award of compensatory damages. While Pelumi claimed police officers laughed at him, he told the court they never touched him physically.
“In this case, (the) Plaintiff did not provide a scintilla of medically established evidence to demonstrate any physical symptomology,” the judge said. “Indeed, not only did he fail to provide such evidence, he actually admitted that he did not seek medical attention for his alleged symptoms in the first instance.”
Pelumi had twice filed civil larceny and related claims against Finnegan in U.S. District Court following his July 3, 2007 arrest for disorderly conduct. Both of the cases were dismissed, and the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston affirmed each of those decisions.
Pelumi pleaded no contest to the criminal charge on July 23, 2007 in the state’s District Court. He was given a suspended sentence of six months, with probation.