WATERTOWN An ex-convict has filed a $1 million federal lawsuit against retired Jefferson County Undersheriff Andrew R. Neff, claiming he offered to intercede on her behalf with the district attorneys office in exchange for sex.
Michele R. Bowens, Watertown, filed action Monday in U.S. District Court, Syracuse, against Mr. Neff personally. Neither Jefferson County nor the Sheriffs Department is named as a defendant. Ms. Bowens, who was released from state prison April 2 under parole supervision, is acting as her own attorney in the matter.
According to the complaint, Ms. Bowens first met Mr. Neff in about 2006 when she was in the Metro-Jefferson Public Safety Building awaiting a prison sentence for her role in a shoplifting ring that victimized Walmart. At the time, Mr. Neff was a member of the Metro-Jeff Drug Task Force and Ms. Bowens claims she offered to work as an informant with the force in exchange for a reduced sentence. She ultimately was sentenced to 1½ to 3 years in prison, and was released in September 2008.
During the course of the undercover operation, Neff forced me to engage in sexual acts with him, Ms. Bowens alleges in her handwritten complaint. Neff also forced me to engage in sexual acts with him after I was released from custody.
Ms. Bowens claims that she went several years without having any contact with Mr. Neff, but in October 2010 she was indicted for obtaining refunds from a McDonalds by signing fictitious names to receipts. She maintains that Mr. Neff contacted her after learning of the indictment.
At that time, he informed that if I performed sexual favors for him, he would speak to the Jefferson County District Attorneys office on my behalf regarding the charges. I did not solicit this call or contact from Neff, Ms. Bowens said in her complaint.
She claims that later the same day, Mr. Neff sent me a photo of his private parts via cell phone. She claims the photo was sent from Mr. Neffs county-issued phone.
Subsequently, he engaged in a pattern of verbal abuse (and) harassment against me when I refused to meet him to perform sexual favors, Ms. Bowens alleges.
She claims that about three weeks later she sent Mr. Neff a text message asking that he not send any further messages to her.
That same day, Neff sent me another picture of his private parts from his work cell phone, she wrote in her complaint.
Ms. Bowens claims that the actions by the police officer, who retired in February 2013, violated her civil rights.
Former Sackets Harbor attorney Charu Narang, now practicing in Rochester, had filed a notice of claim against the county on Ms. Bowenss behalf in October 2012, but is not listed as the attorney of record on the federal case.
She could not be reached for comment Tuesday. A notice of claim is a requirement for any state court action against a municipality, giving the complainant one year and 90 days to file a state Supreme Court lawsuit. That period has elapsed, precluding any action in state court against the county. No notice of claim is required for a federal action, nor would it be required in a state action if brought against Mr. Neff personally. However, depending on the nature of any claim, other statutes of limitations may apply.
While Ms. Bowenss forgery and stolen property charges were pending in relation to the fictitious receipt case, she was arrested again and charged with possession of stolen property, two credit cards taken from an Adams Center man. After pleading guilty to the three charges in County Court, she was sentenced in March 2013 to 1½ to 3 years in prison.