CONCORD — The former Colby-Sawyer College freshman who last year accused the New London police chief of offering to drop minor charges in return for her posing nude for photos, filed a lawsuit Thursday against the town of New London and the former chief, David Seastrand, seeking unspecified but punitive damages.
Attorney Richard Lehmann said the suit alleges the town and the chief violated Janelle Westfall’s constitutional rights to due process and equal protection and claims intentional infliction of emotional distress and abuse of process.
Westfall was 18 when she was arrested March 3, 2013, by Seastrand while she was walking along a road in New London after a party. She allegedly had a beer can with her and gave a false name when arrested by the chief, who was driving an unmarked vehicle.
Lehmann, with the law firm of Douglas, Leonard & Garvey, said the charges were eventually dropped, after Westfall completed a Merrimack County diversion program.
But Westfall alleges, in the lawsuit, that although Seastrand originally said a diversion program was one option for resolving the charges, he said it would be very inconvenient for Westfall while she was in school. She claims he also said a community service option wasn’t going to work out and offered the Alexandria resident yet another option.
Westfall alleges the chief offered to drop the charges if she posed nude for photographs he would take. She refused and went public with what she said was an unacceptable option.
After Westfall came forward with her allegations, the Attorney General’s Office conducted an investigation into her allegations. Seastrand did not speak with anyone in the AG’s Office. At the conclusion of the investigation, Seastrand agreed to resign on April 4, 2013, 26 days before he was planning to retire after 27 years with the department, the last 18 as chief. He also agreed to give up his police certification.
When he left office, Seastrand was praised by town officials and residents. But a decision was made to install new and upgrade the police station’s audio and video recording equipment. That kind of equipment was not operational when Westfall said she was being propositioned at the police station. Seastrand’s successor also put cameras in the department’s three primary cruiserss.
After the results of the initial investigation were announced, additional complaints were made to the Attorney General’s Office about Seastrand. But at the end of December 2013, after those allegations were investigated, the AG’s office said it would not pursue charges against Seastrand.
Attorney General Joseph Foster said that the allegations, “while disturbing, did not rise to the level of criminal conduct.” Foster also said: “Each of the alleged instances involved actions by Seastrand in his personal capacity, and did not purport to be acts of his office.”
The lawsuit seeks a fast-tracked trial by jury, although it is open to alternative dispute resolution with private mediation.
The lawsuit seeks punitive damages and attorney’s fees.