Lawsuit alleges civil rights violation by Johnstown police

A federal lawsuit against the Johnstown Police Department and two of their officers alleges they violated the civil rights of two black men in a car after they illegally ran over and berated them during a traffic obstruction in 2019.

“It is important to note that at this point in time plaintiffs had not committed any offenses or vehicle and traffic law violations and there was no reason for the defendants to believe that a crime was committed,” the lawsuit reads last week was filed in the north borough of New York.

The lawsuit alleges that Mazell York of Gloversville was driving its gray Nissan in neighboring Johnstown with his 3-year-old daughter in the back seat and Amsterdam-based Michael McDonald, 35, in the front when the car stopped in the afternoon hours of December 30 , 2019 by Officer Blaine Walker.

He was assisted by another officer who was referred to as “John Doe” in the legal records.

The two officers, along with the city and police, were named as defendants in the civil lawsuit, which sought monetary damages and legal fees.

On Wednesday, Johnstown Police Chief David Gilbo said the lawsuit had been passed on to Michael Poulin, the city’s attorney. He declined to comment, citing the pending litigation.

Poulin did not respond to messages asking for a comment on the case left by a member of the City Hall or a number listed for his private practice in Northville.

The legal document says that after Walker stopped the car, he ordered York, 26, out of the vehicle and accused him and McDonald of “picking up” and “dropping off” drugs at a Byard Street residence in Johnstown.

Attorney Daniel Smalls, who represents the plaintiffs, said at the time when McDonald had a girlfriend in Johnstown.

York repeatedly demanded to know why he was incarcerated, and the lawsuit alleges that his daughter was crying hysterically as the incident unfolded.

The officer later told the lawsuit that he ran him over because York had an object hanging on the rearview mirror of the car for which he had received a traffic ticket.

The ticket was subsequently dismissed by a judge in Johnstown City Court, the lawsuit said.

At one point during the roughly 20-minute encounter, according to the court records, Walker said to York and McDonald as they protested his questions about alleged drug activities, “I’m the police, I can do this.”

“It should be noted that none of the plaintiffs were the subject of a drug test,” the lawsuit said. “The actions of the defendants violated the plaintiffs’ clearly defined and well-established federal constitutional rights, including freedom from improper confiscation and malicious prosecution.”

In the court record, the other police officer is also accused of standing by and not intervening, and the police department is accused of not properly training their officers. She also accused Johnstown of failing to monitor the police and of failing to hold them accountable for “acting beyond the scope of their duties and job description.”

As a result, according to court records, the plaintiffs suffered “severe emotional distress” because the two officers’ behavior was “extreme and outrageous”.

The plaintiffs are represented by Schenectady-based attorney Daniel Smalls.

Comments are closed.