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June 15, 2013

Judge dismisses suit against Marblehead police

MARBLEHEAD — A federal magistrate has thrown out the lawsuit filed last year by a Marblehead man who claimed that town police violated his civil rights by arresting him on charges that were later dismissed.

Andrew Chapman, who was 62 at the time of the 2009 incident, claimed in his suit that he had called 911 to ask police to remove his then-22-year-old girlfriend, but that police arrested him when she told officers that he had tried to strangle her.

But U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Jennifer Boal concluded it was not Chapman, but the young woman who had called for help, and that, given the red marks on her neck, police had adequate probable cause to arrest him.

“While Chapman disputes that he in fact assaulted (the woman), it is undisputed that she called the police to report that Chapman had assaulted her,” Boal wrote in her ruling, released this week.

“It is also undisputed that when officers (Brandon) Finnegan and (Dean) Peralta showed up, (the woman) was crying and emotional, that she told them that Chapman was her boyfriend and that he had grabbed her by the neck so tight that she had to kick him to release his grip, and that she had marks and bruising in her neck,” the judge wrote.

Given that account and her visible injuries, it was reasonable for an officer to conclude that Chapman had assaulted the woman, the judge found.

Chapman argued that police had a duty to discover that he suffered from diabetic neuropathy and would have lacked the strength to commit an assault like the one described by his girlfriend. He said the marks on the woman’s neck were not red but yellow and came from an unrelated incident involving a member of her family.

The judge disagreed.

“There was no reason, inherent in the situation, to disbelieve (the woman’s) account,” the judge wrote. “Although Chapman denied her allegations and may have provided the officers with a different story, further investigation was not likely to clarify, in any definitive way, who was telling the truth.”

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