Yarmouth resident sues town, police over 2018 arrest

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YARMOUTH — The town faces a federal lawsuit alleging unlawful arrest and civil rights violations stemming from an incident last year at a Cornfield Point Road home.

Selcuk Karamanoglu claims his reputation was harmed and he suffered other negative effects when he was arrested for alleged domestic violence assault June 15, 2018. Within a week, the Cumberland County district attorney’s office declined to prosecute the case.

The town, Police Chief Michael Morrill and Officer Brian Andreasen are defendants in the complaint, filed Jan. 14 in U.S. District Court in Portland.

Karamanoglu is seeking unspecified punitive damages, among other remedies that could include fees for attorneys or expert witnesses.

Town attorney Ed Benjamin, of Drummond Woodsum in Portland, this week said that while the district attorney declined to prosecute, there is also another standard at play.

He said all a police officer needs to arrest someone is probable cause, while a prosecutor must prove a crime occurred beyond a reasonable doubt. Benjamin also said just because the prosecutor didn’t pursue the case doesn’t mean Andreasen acted inappropriately.

Benjamin said that he and co-counsel Kasia Park could not go into specific details of their defense, but he did say that under the federal protections cited by Karamanoglu he has to prove that Andreasen was intentionally trying to violate his civil rights.

“In essence,” Benjamin said, Karamanoglu “feels he should not have been arrested.”

Benjamin said the town has until July 26 to complete the discovery phase of the lawsuit, and sometime after that he anticipates Yarmouth would move for summary judgment – a ruling in the town’s favor without the need for a trial.

He doesn’t expect a resolution of the case, however, until at least the end of this year.

Benjamin said he’s met with both Morrill and Andreasen to get their sides of the story and, based on what he’s learned, Karamanoglu and the woman who filed the domestic violence charge had been living together for about three years when a physical altercation occurred between them last summer.

He said when Andreasen first met with the woman, who is identified as RH in the  lawsuit, “she was very emotional, she had blood on her clothing and was complaining of an injury to her ribs.”

At some point, RH was checked out by Yarmouth emergency medical staff. RH later told Andreasen that Karamanoglu had grabbed her around the throat, pulled her by her hair and attempted to push her down a set of stairs.

“This was a very serious allegation,” Benjamin said. And in making the arrest, Andreasen was faced with trying to determine who was the “primary aggressor” and whether a “reasonable amount of force” was used by Karamanoglu to remove RH from his property.

Karamanoglu is being represented by Gene Libby and Tyler Smith, attorneys at Libby O’Brien Kingsley & Champion in Kennebunk.

In the lawsuit, Libby and Smith claim their client “suffered damages that were proximately caused by his unlawful arrest, including but not limited to stress, fear, and embarrassment … reputational harm … (and) defending against protection from abuse proceedings that were triggered by the unlawful arrest.”

In sum, Karamanoglu alleges “his civil rights were violated because (he) has a constitutional right to be free of arrest without probable cause,” according to the suit. Andreasen is also accused of acting “with malice” in making an arrest “without legal justification.”

What all sides seem to agree on is that RH entered Karamanoglu’s home without his knowledge while he was sleeping and then woke him up to confront him over allegations that he was cheating on her.

RH admits to throwing a remote to the garage door and breaking it, and hitting Karamanoglu in the chest as he tried to remove her from the house.

That’s where the stories start to diverge.

In his civil lawsuit against the town, Karamanoglu said RH “erupted into a rage after finding a message that she perceived as corroborat(ing) her suspicions and attacked Karamanoglu by hitting him with the garage door opener in her left hand and with the phone in her right hand.”

But in her written complaint filed with Andreasen, RH said Karamanoglu “kept pushing me and at one point I fell to the ground and got back up again. He pushed me again and again.”

She claimed Karamanoglu “pulled me up by my hair … I continued to resist and he then tried to throw me down the steps … I got back up and this time he grabbed me by my throat.”

In his lawsuit, however, Karamanoglu said he “suffered several defensive wounds that are consistent with being struck by an assailant.” He also said he told RH to leave “and attempted to escort her out of the house when she refused.” That’s when RH “physically resisted leaving, continuing (to strike) Karamanoglu.”

When Andreasen came to his house, the lawsuit says, Karamanoglu “showed his defensive wounds to the officers as evidence of what happened,” but Andreasen “failed to note Karamanoglu’s defensive wounds in his police report.”

And, Karamanoglu argues, Andreasen didn’t end things there. He claims Andreasen called RH the next day “to see how she was doing. She said that she remembered more details, and Andreasen asked her to write another statement.”

The lawsuit claims the Yarmouth Police Department acted incorrectly when it didn’t “investigate or pursue any criminal charges against RH, even though (her) admitted criminal conduct included domestic violence assault, aggravated criminal trespass, and criminal mischief.”

The lawsuit says the district attorney’s office dropped the case against Karamanoglu at his request.

In a June 21, 2018, letter to Karamanoglu’s attorney, a prosecutor said “I have reviewed the case involving Mr. Karamanoglu. … It is clear from the report that any force used by your client was in defense of his premises, or in self‐defense.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 780-9097 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

Yarmouth Police Department, at 200 Main St.

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