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Glastonbury Family Files Federal Suit Against Police

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A Glastonbury woman who says she was wrongly accused of hosting an underage drinking party filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against local police and representatives of a regional drug task force.

Christine Conroy and her children, Martin and Lauren Conroy and a juvenile who was not identified, contend that police violated their rights by illegally searching their home, using excessive force and depriving them of liberty on false charges. Defendants in the suit filed in U.S. District Court include police administrators and officers in Glastonbury, Manchester, South Windsor and Vernon, all members of the East Central Narcotics Task Force.

The Conroys say they were humiliated and emotionally distressed after events in the late summer of 2012. The suit says police focused on the family in August after receiving anonymous tips of many teenagers coming and going from the Conroys' home on Broad Moor, a street near Minnechaug Golf Course. Glastonbury police Officer David Goncalves, who also is a member of the narcotics task force, wrote in reports that the activity was "consistent with drug transactions taking place at the residence," the suit says.

On Aug. 22, Goncalves hid in trees and brush and used binoculars to watch the house, the suit says. He saw at least three youths in the open garage, which was "littered with beer cans," according to an affidavit for a search warrant issued in 2012. Goncalves called his sergeant, and together they approached the house for what the suit referred to as a "knock and talk."

The youths had gone inside -- but, police said there were empty beer cans and a marijuana pipe in the garage in plain view. Police have said that youths in the home were "belligerent" and "actively resisting." One juvenile who refused to stay seated was "taken to the floor," threatened with a Taser and handcuffed, police have said.

The suit says that after the youths, including Martin Conroy, then 17, protested the illegal search, police officers "violently and unexpectedly" kicked Conroy's legs out from under him and slammed him onto a concrete floor, "hitting his head and causing serious injury." Both Lauren Conroy, then 20, and Martin Conroy were "falsely charged" with possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana, the suit says. Martin Conroy also was wrongfully charged with disorderly conduct and interfering with police, according to the lawsuit.

In the days that followed, Christine Conroy went to the Glastonbury police department to complain about officers' conduct. Her son was injured, she said, and one of the officers deleted video of the scene that one youth had captured on his cellphone, according to Conroy's complaint to the department at the time and the federal suit.

Meanwhile, police had received a warrant after contending they had probable cause to search the Conroys' home for marijuana, drug paraphernalia and financial records showing profits from drug sales, the suit says.

On Sept. 5, members of the drug task force, wearing masks and body armor and accompanied by a police dog, returned to the home, the suit says. Christine Conroy has said that she had just returned home and was standing in the driveway when police arrived at about 9:45 p.m. Officers found several male teenagers and adults, ages 17 to 21, in the basement, which police said smelled of marijuana. Lauren Conroy was with two friends in her bedroom

Police said they seized a small amount of marijuana and a glass pipe with marijuana ash, a half-full 750 ml bottle of Jameson whiskey and a half-full 750 ml bottle of Southern Comfort. Two empty bottles of vodka and two plastic water bottles containing alcohol were found in Christine Conroy's 14-year-old daughter's bedroom, police said in 2012.

Christine Conroy, then 48, was later arrested on charges that included delivering alcohol to a minor and hosting an underage drinking party. In October of that year, prosecutors decided not to pursue the case and the charges were dropped.

Conroy said at the time that she had never known her 14-year-old to drink and had no idea the liquor bottles were in her room. In any case, the suit says, police had no evidence that minors had consumed alcohol or that Christine Conroy had provided liquor.

Glastonbury police would not comment at the time on Christine Conroy's complaints, and a department representative could not be reached Thursday for comment on the lawsuit.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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