SARATOGA SPRINGS City police stand accused in a federal lawsuit of falsely arresting a local woman after she tried to lodge a complaint against an off-duty state trooper whose brother is a Saratoga Springs police officer.
Alicia Garafalo claims her constitutional rights were violated by city police after she was arrested on the charges of second-degree harassment and second-degree obstructing governmental administration. She claims the police lodged the charges against her after she tried to file a complaint against Kenneth Ahigian, an off-duty trooper who engaged in a fracas with her friends inside and outside the City Tavern on Caroline Street nearly four years ago.
“The false accusations and charges were made with malicious intent and in retaliation for [Garafalo’s] exercise of her constitutional rights, including her First Amendment rights,” stated Thomas Fallati, an Albany attorney representing Garafalo.
In her lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Garafalo claims she was shoved twice by Ahigian, who was not arrested when city police arrived to break up the early-morning fight on Oct. 11, 2009. She filed a statement asking that charges be brought against him on the night of the fracas and then followed through with a complaint three days later.
City police initially asked Garafalo to appear in court to sign a complaint against Ahigian, the documents say. But instead of following through, city police showed up at her workplace on Oct. 14, 2009, and issued her criminal citations based on a deposition given to them by Ahigian, the brother of Saratoga Springs Police Officer Justin Ahigian.
Garafalo’s lawsuit claims Justin Ahigian was with his brother at the bar where the assault occurred. And she believes he dissuaded Spa City police from arresting Ahigian.
Ahigian claims Garafalo’s boyfriend, Raymond Lefco, started the altercation by elbowing him inside the City Tavern and that Garafalo was the one who shoved him as she stood between the two men. He also claims she was abrasive toward him and the city police called to break up the fight.
Garafalo filed a complaint with the state police on Oct. 14, 2009. The state police, however, ruled the complaint unfounded in January 2010.
The charges against Garafalo were adjourned in contemplation of dismissal in City Court on March 4, 2010. She filed the federal lawsuit against the city in January 2011.
Last year, an attorney representing the city asked that the case be dismissed. In March, U.S. District Court Judge Mae D’Agostino dismissed several parts of the claim, but allowed the bulk of Garafalo’s lawsuit to proceed toward trial. A settlement conference in May failed to resolve the lawsuit. The case is now scheduled for trial Nov. 12.
Fallati and Nannette Kelleher, an attorney representing the city, did not respond to a call for comment Monday. Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen said he wasn’t in office when the altercation took place and had no immediate knowledge of the lawsuit.
“Since I wasn’t in office at the time, it’d be hard for me to comment on it,” he said.