PORTLAND (AP) – A woman who was hired as an exotic dancer has filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming a South Portland police officer used excessive force after she reported to a hotel to do her act and was later detained.

The Maine Civil Liberties Union Foundation is representing Rosanna Morelli in the case, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Portland on Wednesday.

The suit claims that 53-year-old Morelli was assaulted by Sgt. Steven Webster at a Best Western hotel on March 3, 2006.

She had been contacted in her capacity as an exotic dancer by undercover officers as part of a sting.

When she was offered money to take off her clothes, Morelli left and told the police they had no right to hold her. However, the MCLU says Morelli was allegedly shoved against a corridor wall and grabbed around her arms and wrists.

It also says she sustained bruises and a shoulder injury for which she is still being treated.

Morelli was subjected to “hostile and abusive questioning” in a hotel room before she was released by police, according to the MCLU. After the interrogation, she drove herself to Maine Medical Center in Portland for treatment.

In response to her original complaint, South Portland Police Chief Edward Googins said in a letter dated June 8, 2006 that the department had conducted an investigation and Webster was exonerated.

Police do not deny that Morelli was grabbed, but say it was in response to her uncooperative behavior and unwillingness to be detained. Police said Morelli at one point pushed Webster and that police force used was consistent with policy.


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