BETHEL — A federal wrongful arrest lawsuit filed this past spring by Rick Savage against the town of Bethel and Town Manager Jim Doar has been dismissed.

Also named in the suit was the Oxford County Sheriff’s Department. That case will go forward, according to Doar.

Savage was arrested in May 2012 in the parking lot outside the Bethel Town Office after getting into an argument with Peter Mason, the husband of Town Clerk Christen Mason, who was upset because Savage had called their home about a petition to remove the town’s sign ordinance.

The confrontation happened after Savage left a selectmen’s meeting in which he and his brother and business partner, Ron Savage, had sought to petition for a town vote to abolish the municipal sign ordinance.

Savage claims the officers used excessive force, causing him “physical injuries, pain, discomfort, embarrassment and mental anguish.”

He was charged with two counts of disorderly conduct and one count of refusing to submit to arrest. The charges were dismissed in November.

According to Savage’s complaint, prior to the May selectmen’s meeting, Town Manager James Doar had asked the Oxford County Sheriff’s Department to have two officers attend “specifically ‘to deal’ with Mr. Savage.”

At the time, Doar said he asked for police presence after recent harassment and threats from Rick Savage against town employees.

Savage denies having threatened anyone and, according to his lawsuit, he and his brother merely “exercised their right to speak at the meeting regarding the sign ordinance.” As a result, police officers “took it upon themselves to unlawfully, unreasonably and violently arrest Mr. Savage.”

Savage also claimed the officers did not see the argument and had no probable cause to arrest him or to believe he was involved in any crime, and that they erred in making the arrest because of “inadequate and unconstitutional policies, practices and procedures of” the Sheriff’s Office and the town of Bethel, including lack of adequate training on the appropriate use of force.”

Regarding the Town of Bethel specifically, the suit claimed “Mr. Doar led the Oxford County Sheriff’s Department to believe that Mr. Savage was in some manner ‘threatening,’” but “Mr. Doar had never actually filed any complaint against Mr. Savage on account of any ‘threats’ allegedly made by him to Mr. Doar or any third parties.”

The suit alleges Gallant and Doar adopted a custom or policy of permitting and/or encouraging Oxford County law enforcement officers to arrest citizens without probable cause and to use an inappropriate amount of force in effecting arrests.

Savage had asked for compensation for injuries as well as punitive damages and legal costs.

The town moved for dismissal of the case, and the motion was granted Oct. 18 by U.S. District Court Judge George Singal.

Singal wrote that Savage “fell far short of asserting sufficiently fact-based allegations to support his theory that Doar conspired with the OCSD to violate his constitutional rights.”

Doar said Tuesday he was not surprised the case was dismissed.

“They drew a lot of conclusions with no facts to back it up,” he said.

Regarding the case against the Sheriff’s Department, a written defense submitted in July included statements: that Gallant, Lt. Brian Landis and Deputy Matthew Noyes did not have enough information to know exactly who had requested their presence at the meeting; that they had reason to believe Savage had engaged in threatening behavior; and that they had information to the effect that Doar had previously obtained a protection from abuse order against him.

They admitted they did not see the entire interaction or hear everything that was spoken between Savage and Mason, and that at some point the interaction ended and Savage “left the vicinity” of Mason. But they claimed they were required to intervene between the two.

Gallant and Savage declined comment on the cases.


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