Judge: Montgomery County repo lawsuit can go to trial
Sheriff's Department faces civil rights allegation
MONTGOMERY COUNTY More than three years ago, Patrick Boles said he was dragged from his truck and arrested, watching from the back of a squad car as his truck was towed away by a pair of repo men.
Now he’s suing three Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department officials and the county as a whole for false arrest and malicious prosecution. Thanks to a recent federal court judge ruling, Boles’ lawsuit will make it to trial.
On the night of May 6, 2010, Deputy Thomas Flickinger was called to the scene of a repossession gone awry. Two repo men were attempting to remove a Ford F150 owned by Boles from his Amsterdam home. Boles apparently had neglected to pay some late payment fees. When Flickinger arrived, Boles was in the truck refusing to get out.
Flickinger reportedly dragged Boles out of the truck, scuffled with him and put him under arrest — charging him with obscuring government administration and resisting arrest. While those charges were later dropped, Flickinger’s reported actions led to a federal civil rights case against Flickinger, his superiors — Sheriff Michael Amato and then-Undersheriff Jeff Smith — and the county.
In the early stages of the case, the county and sheriff’s officials asked Federal District Court Judge Gary Sharpe for a summary judgment against Boles. In an order handed down last week, Sharpe said the case merited a trial.
“This is very good for my client,” said Boles’ lawyer, Bob Keach.
The case against county law enforcement largely hinges on repossession law, Keach said.
“Police officers aren’t supposed to assist with private property issues without a court order,” Keach said. “It’s very clear in the law.”
Essentially, he said, an officer can stand by during a repossession to keep the peace but can’t actually help carry out the repossession unless there’s a court order.
The narrative of the case, as described in court paperwork, is contested. Accounts given by repo men Dakota Seymour and Deniz Kana have Flickinger arriving at a time of conflict. They said the truck was leaning off the dolly with Boles inside shouting and “upset.”
Boles claims he was totally calm at that time and that the truck was secure on the dolly.
Flickinger’s account suggests he acted appropriately to prevent injury or damage to property.
“This conflicting testimony creates material issues of fact preventing a summery judgment,” Sharpe ruled.
Amato could not be reached Monday for comment on the case. Smith didn’t have much information.
“I didn’t actually have anything to do with that case,” he said. “I think they just throw people into the paperwork.”
Keach said Smith was liable for the same reason Amato and the county as a whole are liable, because there was no system in place to train deputies like Flickinger in repo law.
“He didn’t know what he was doing,” Keach said. “So he showed up and put his nose where it didn’t belong.”
Aside from the false arrest claims, Seymour and Kana are listed on the lawsuit, along with their then-employer, the American Lenders Service Co. of Glens Falls.
Since the incident, Anthony Gotti bought the company. In an interview Monday, he said he had heard of the lawsuit but didn’t know much about it considering the actual incident took place more than a year before he bought the firm.
“You have no idea how hard I’ve worked to crawl out from under their shadow,” he said.
Keach said Boles is seeking monetary and punitive damages, but could not comment on dollar amounts. The trail, he said, should take place by the end of the year.