"Woman, 85, sues Tewksbury over arrest" by Brenda J. Buote Globe Correspondent January 06, 2016
An 85-year-old woman has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the town of Tewksbury and its police department, alleging officers falsely arrested her three years ago, causing her “great stress and humiliation.”
In a 35-page lawsuit filed in US District Court on Dec. 7, Alice E. O’Connell says she was arrested without probable cause in 2013. O’Connell’s attorney, Dianne M. O’Brien, alleges in the lawsuit that officers “subjected [O’Connell] to unwarranted psychological evaluation” and interrogated her without advising her of her Miranda rights or allowing her to use the telephone, then “made false statements in the resulting police report to hide their unlawful conduct.”
Through his assistant, Town Manager Richard Montuori told the Globe that the case was referred to Tewksbury’s insurance provider, the Massachusetts Interlocal Insurance Association, but that a lawyer had not yet been assigned to it.
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According to the lawsuit, O’Connell had called police to her home the morning of May 24, 2013, after an argument with her then-87-year-old husband, Thomas J. O’Connell. Alice O’Connell told police her “out-of-control husband was raising his fists to her again” and asked that he be removed from the house.
The lawsuit states that after questioning both parties, officers arrested O’Connell and accused her of assaulting her husband of 58 years, who suffered from advanced Alzheimer’s disease. According to the police report cited in the lawsuit, Thomas O’Connell indicated to police that his wife “grabbed his arms very tightly and scratched him, causing the bleeding to his right wrist area.”
After the incident, O’Connell moved her husband into an assisted living facility. He died July 4, 2014.
Alice O’Connell contends in the lawsuit she had grabbed her husband’s arms as he was coming toward her to restrain him from hurting her.
According to the suit, O’Connell was arrested after objecting to the way the officers handled the situation. The arrest, the lawsuit says, was “in retaliation for Mrs. O’Connell’s verbal disagreement with the wrongful conduct of a Tewksbury police officer” and her threats of legal action against the officers involved in the incident.
In the lawsuit, O’Brien says that Sergeant Walter Jop was “continually trying to put words in [O’Connell’s] mouth which were not true and she did not say.” When O’Connell took issue with his behavior, Jop allegedly told O’Connell she was being “awfully pushy.” O’Connell responded by telling Jop he was the one being pushy, the lawsuit states.
At that point, Jop “retaliated by immediately approaching her, grasping her by the arm, and forcibly turning her around by one arm while placing handcuffs on her without telling her why he was doing so,” according to the suit.
O’Connell was charged with assault and battery for the alleged scratch to her husband’s wrist and with threatening to commit a crime. Police said she had told officers she would “stab [Thomas O’Connell] in the stomach with a knife if she had to.” O’Connell denies making such a statement.
Both charges were eventually dismissed. However, the incident and press coverage surrounding it have caused O’Connell “great stress and humiliation in her community,” the lawsuit alleges.
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