Weare restaurant owner settles in lawsuit against police department
Weare has agreed to a $15,000 settlement with a man who sued over his 2010 arrest for hindering a police investigation, charges for which he was later acquitted.
In September 2012, George Hodgdon filed a federal lawsuit claiming he had been unlawfully arrested and that Weare police officers had used excessive force against him.
The incident began April 30, 2010, when the Weare police responded to a fight outside Palmer’s Tavern about 11:30 p.m., according to a complaint filed in Hillsborough County Superior Court. Hodgdon, who co-owned the tavern, was washing dishes inside the bar at the time.
Hodgdon claims in his complaint that the police locked him and his patrons in the tavern for nearly four hours during their initial investigation. That night, he refused to make a statement to the police about the fight. When he again would not make a statement for the police investigation in July, the officers arrested Hodgdon on charges of hindering apprehension or prosecution and unsworn falsification, according to court documents.
In his complaint, Hodgdon also said the Weare police caused him pain and suffering when they pushed him into the cruiser during that arrest. He wanted to adjust his leg brace so his knee could bend, the complaint states, but the officers wouldn’t let him.
The officers “willfully, wantonly and with evil motive unreasonably seized (Hodgdon) by not allowing him to loosen his leg brace and pushing him face first, causing him to land on his face and stomach,” the complaint states.
The complaint by Hodgdon also alleges Weare officers “harassed, intimidated and otherwise interfered with” business at Palmer’s Tavern after his arrest, and he eventually had to sell the restaurant because of their behavior.
Through the suit, Hodgdon demanded damages for the consequences of the officers’ “willful and wanton” violations of his constitutional rights and “other tortious conduct.”
Hodgdon was acquitted of the criminal charges against him, and he sued the town and the police department last year. He named former chief Gregory Begin and former sergeants Joe Kelley and Robert Petersen in the suit, as well as Officers Brandon Montplaisir and Nicholas Nadeau and other “unknown police officers.”
Begin retired from the department in May, and Kelley was fired last month for violating internal policies and procedures. Petersen was not listed on a department roster provided to the Monitor in October.
The case would have gone to jury trial in April, but Hodgdon signed the settlement agreement last week. He agreed to dismiss his claims against the individual officers named in the suit as well as the police department itself. The town of Weare is the only defendant listed on the settlement agreement, which the Monitor obtained through a right-to-know request filed with town counsel.
That settlement amounts to $15,000, according to the agreement. G&E Restaurant & Pub, which Hodgdon co-owns, is also listed as a plaintiff on the case. The town is insured by Primex, which will cover that payment.
The close of this case marks the end of another lawsuit against the town of Weare and its police department. In October, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by a man who did not recognize local government authority. He had sued for $5 million in damages over an arrest he called a kidnapping.
Three federal lawsuits against the town are ongoing, but they all relate to the same incident. Carla Gericke, William Rodriguez and William Alleman all sued the Weare police after Gericke was arrested while videotaping a police traffic stop in 2010. Those cases have been stayed pending a decision on Gericke’s suit in district court.
Hodgdon’s lawyer could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Selectmen Chairman Tom Clow declined comment on the settlement.
“That’s pretty much that,” he said.
(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or email@example.com or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)