CARRABASSETT VALLEY — A  U.S. District Court judge in Maine sided with the town, police chief and town manager in lawsuit by a former Carrabassett Valley man who claimed his civil rights were violated and the police chief unfairly targeted him.

Judge Lance Walker issued the judgment Aug. 8.

“Of course, I am very disappointed in Judge Walker’s decision,” Michael Jutras of South Carolina who filed the lawsuit wrote in an email. “I do not agree with his reading of the facts nor the underlying law. I certainly plan to appeal within the required timeline. (O)ther than that, I have no comment at this time.”

Carrabassett Valley Town Manager Dave Cota declined to comment.

Jutras filed the lawsuit against several parties in October 2017 in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina. The case was transferred to U.S. District Court of Maine in February 2018.

Jutras’ claims are based on a series of incidents that began in December 2012 and ended in April 2016, according to court documents.

He sought $5.4 million in compensatory damages and between $7.5 million to $10.5 million in punitive damages. He also asked that his record be cleared, that Police Chief Mark Lopez be terminated and that the town’s Police Department be disbanded.

Jutras alleged that Lopez singled him out for harassment and mistreatment, which ultimately caused him to sell his condominium in Carrabassett Valley, according to court documents. Jutras claimed he was issued unwarranted parking tickets, received summonses on separate occasions for reckless conduct and trespassing in what he considered a common area of his condominium — the roof — and received verbal threats.

He alleged violations of his U.S. constitutional rights.

Jutras “must demonstrate that he has a trial-worthy substantive due process claim based on the arbitrary exercise of police power, he must do more than raise a genuine issue concerning an incident he believed was an unwarranted interruption of his enjoyment of liberty, property or privacy,” according to Walker’s judgment.

Jutras had to show that one or more defendants engaged in action that “shocks the conscience,” and conduct intended to injure him in some way.

“Simply stated, there is absolutely nothing in the summary judgment record that would support Plaintiff’s claim against Mr. Cota,” according to the court, “nor could a reasonable juror find that Mr. Cota condoned or encouraged any police misconduct against Mr. Jutras.”

As for Lopez, there is only one  component of the record that could support a “finding of state action unjustified by any government interest and shocking to a reasonable person’s conscious,” Walker wrote.

He was referring to circumstances surrounding the “vandalization of plaintiff’s car and plaintiff’s bald allegation that Mr. Lopez could have framed him by loading ammunition into one of his firearms after the guns were taken into police custody,” Walker wrote.

While Jutras was out of town in 2014, the windows on his vehicle were broken. After the vandalism was reported to police, the guns left in the vehicle were taken from it. Jutras put the guns in the car because he would sometimes rent his condominium.

When Jutras returned to Carrabassett Valley and went to pick up his guns, Lopez gave him a summons for having a loaded gun in the car, which Jutras denied, and believed that Lopez planted the evidence.

Walker did not see evidence of that, and reviewed Jutras’ deposition transcript to “determine what, if any, basis Mr. Jutras might provide to support a claim that Mr. Lopez was in league with vandals or planted evidence to support a criminal charges, assuming that is, in fact, his contention,” according to documents.

Although Jutras said in his deposition that he left left loaded guns in the car, Walker concluded no reasonable jury could fairly find Lopez was connected to the vandalism. “Additionally, even if the jury accepted that the gun was not loaded when Mr. Jutras placed it in the car, it would not logically follow that Mr. Lopez loaded ammunition into the rifle or instructed any of his officers to do so,” Walker wrote.

Walker did not find evidence to support threats Jutras’ claimed Lopez made to him, or any evidence that Lopez or Cota issued any of the alleged tickets. Lopez was personally involved in negating at least two tickets.

In regard to the criminal trespass summons, Lopez issued it to Jutras after he and some friends had been warned by a police officer to stay off the roof of the Gondola Village condominium building. Two days later, Lopez and another officer, went to the condominium based on a report that Jutras was back on the roof area with others.

Jutras’ former condominium unit has a three-story deck and on the ground floor of the condo directly beneath Jutras’ unit was Sugarloaf Child Care. In December 2013, Lopez issued Jutras a summons for criminal recklessness after he dropped a metal mattress spring from his deck and it landed in a snowbank about 4 feet outside a plate glass window to the child care space. Jutras was previously warned not to throw things off his deck.

In an affidavit signed in April by former Deputy Police Chief Randy Walker, he stated “he randomly overheard Mr. Lopez make derogatory remarks about Jutras, and did not ever hear Lopez instruct officers to target Jutras, but did hear Lopez state on one occasion that he would give a fifth of whiskey to the first officer to catch Jutras for OUI, but then quickly took it back saying he was just kidding.”

Walker also recalled Lopez expressing frustration when there was an issue with Jutras, including saying he hated Jutras. Walker recalls he did not understand why Lopez did not leave Jutras alone, but said he considered it false to state that Jutras was “overzealously targeted by police,” according to court documents.

Jutras has initially named Sugarloaf related-entities in the suit, but settled those claims in a confidential agreement.


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