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Judge dismisses defamation action against Jefferson County sheriff’s detective

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State Supreme Court Justice James P. McClusky has denied a Watertown woman’s motion to file a late notice of claim against the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, ending her legal action that claimed she was defamed by a sheriff’s detective.

Raven C. Carreira, 26, filed a lawsuit in August against Detective Stephen C. Cote alleging he had told another woman in August 2011 that Miss Carreira had “put a threat out” against James J. Randall, a sheriff’s deputy with whom she had been involved in a relationship.

It was claimed in the suit that the detective allegedly showed his business card and badge to a neighbor of Mr. Randall and then produced a “mug” shot of Miss Carreira, asking if the woman knew her and if she had seen her recently. The neighbor was said to have told the detective she knew Miss Carreira but had not seen her around. The detective allegedly then stated he was looking for Miss Carreira because of a threat she had made against Mr. Randall.

However, for a suit to be filed against a governmental agency, a notice of claim first must be filed outlining some of the claims. The notice must be filed within 90 days of the events complained about, unless a judge approves a late filing. In an unwritten decision issued from the bench Nov. 1, Judge McClusky denied the motion as untimely, a ruling that dismissed the case. The final order ending the case has not yet been filed at the county clerk’s office.

Miss Carreira is serving a one- to three-year state prison sentence imposed Nov. 13 in County Court for a felony aggravated driving while intoxicated conviction and a probation violation. She had been sentenced in March to five years’ probation on the felony DWI charge. According to court documents, she violated probation by being charged Oct. 5 with second-degree criminal trespassing for entering Mr. Randall’s town of Lyme home through a window at about 5:30 a.m. after being told to leave the premises several times. Mr. Randall served a 60-day suspension for violating the Sheriff’s Department’s policy barring deputies from consorting with known criminals.

The decision in the Carreira case was rendered the same day that Judge McClusky dismissed significant portions of a lawsuit brought by Deputy Krystal G. Rice, who claimed Mr. Cote took nearly nude photos of her in 2006 for use in an online pedophile investigation. Ms. Rice claims she signed a contract with the Sheriff’s Department agreeing to pose for photos for use in an investigation, provided the photos would be returned to her upon request. The photos allegedly no longer can be accounted for, and Ms. Rice claims the contract, which also cannot be located, called for her to receive $1 million per photo that went missing. She contends there are about 50 photos unaccounted for.

Judge McClusky ruled, among other items, that some claims were barred under the statute of limitations requiring that a complaint be filed within one year, 90 days. Dismissed from the complaint are causes of action alleging fraud, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. A lone action alleging breach of contract remains.

A notice of claim also has been filed in a matter in which an Adams Center woman, Michele R. Bowens, a convicted felon facing additional felony charges, alleges Undersheriff Andrew R. Neff used his county-issued cellphone to send her unwanted photos of a man’s genitals. The notice was filed Oct. 24, providing the county at least 30 days to respond before a lawsuit can be filed. No suit has been filed in the matter. The undersheriff has been suspended with pay as state police investigate the claims.

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