The New Hampshire city of Manchester is paying $275,000 to settle a civil rights lawsuit from 2015.
The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union announced last Wednesday that Manchester was prepared to settle with Alfredo Valentin.
Valentin, then 43 years old, was arrested under strange circumstances.
After returning home one night in March of 2015, Valentin discovered police officers in the process of serving a no-knock warrant on his property. The target of the raid was a tenant, accused of peddling drugs and selling heroin.
Although Valentin wasn’t himself under suspicion, he still requested law enforcement show a search warrant. Shortly after the officers refused to comply, they noticed that Valentin was recording them with a smartphone.
The man had apparently activated an audio recording app. Officers took him into custody and charged him with misdemeanor wiretapping.
Reports from an advocacy group indicate that the subject of the raid, Christopher Chapman, had already been arrested by Manchester police. Valentin’s lawsuit said that the tactical raid on his property caused damage to the structure and unnecessarily created danger.
A SWAT team purportedly broke into the house, “firing incendiary devices through the property’s windows, kicking in the doors, and entering the property SWAT-style with semi-automatic weapons – damaging property, terrifying the two women who were still in the house, and creating an unjustifiable risk of accidental death or injury.”
Puzzlingly, the Manchester Police Department’s website seems to indicate that the raid on Valentin’s home didn’t meet the need for a tactical operation. The webpage says the SWAT team is typically deployed only in specific circumstances, like “the execution of high risk narcotics search warrants.”
A press release detailing the raid does mention heroin that was seized, but makes no mention of firearms or other weapons on the premises.
Brandon Ross, Valentin’s attorney, said he’d convinced police to drop the wiretapping case – only for prosecutors to latch on, eventually obtaining an indictment before a grand jury.
Between the indictment and a police press release naming him in conjunction with the raid, Valentin lost his job of 11 years.
A former credit manager, Valentin’s attorney Richard Lehmann says his client has been unable to find a job since the arrest.
“When he goes to look for a job, the first thing anyone sees is he’s been arrested,” said Lehmann, who worked the case along with the ACLU.
Valentin’s legal counsel successfully argued that a New Hampshire law criminalizing audio recording without consent doesn’t apply to police officers going about their duty in public places.
“The police need to understand that individuals who are recording their work without interference have a constitutional right to do so, and it is not cause for their arrest,” said Giles Bissonnette, legal director and co-counsel of the ACLU in New Hampshire.