Raymond Knox, the former owner of The Paddock in Patterson, New York, has commenced a federal lawsuit claiming false arrest and malicious prosecution arising out of a tragic fatal DWI accident case on Super Bowl Sunday in 2007 involving his bar manager. The background is that on February 4, 2007, Sandra Longchamps, an off duty bar manager at The Paddock in Patterson, New York, allegedly was served between 12-14 drinks, and then was a driver on Route 22 involved in a head on collision with a minivan operated by 34 year old Kirsten Henry. Ms. Henry’s husband and three children were passengers in the car. Both Longchamps and Ms. Henry died in the accident, and Henry’s three children and husband suffered serious injuries but survived.
Knox was convicted in a bench trial in Patterson, New York before Judge John King in March of 2008 of the misdemeanor charges of allowing Longchamps to be served alcohol when she was visibly intoxicated pursuant to New York State General Obligations Law Section 11-101, and allowing gambling in the tavern. The trial included testimony by the County’s toxicology expert Betsy Spratt, who reported that the autopsy results showed Ms. Longchamps’ blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to be between a 0.34 to 0.41%, several times the legal limit of 0.08%. Victim impact statements were read to the Court by members of the Henry family, and Mr. Knox was sentenced to nine months in jail.
Mr. Knox served approximately five months of the nine month sentence and was released for good behavior. In 2009, the Appellate Term in the 2nd Department (which covers local Courts in Putnam County and other lower Hudson Valley Courts, among others), reversed the conviction. Knox’ attorney had claimed that Longchamps was in fact drinking at another establishment that night, the Alpine Restaurant, and that the investigating officer, Sgt. Timothy Gannon of the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office, did not investigate this information. The attorney representing the County and Sgt. Gannon claims that Longchamps was never at the Alpine Restaurant, (he asserts that witnesses never saw Longchamps at the Alpine that evening), states that Knox was not denied any rights under the U.S. Constitution, and claims that Officer Gannon had probable cause to arrest Mr. Knox.
The New York Court of Claims, which has jurisdiction over all cases against New York State, awarded Mr. Knox $150,000 in 2011 for being “unjustly convicted and imprisoned.”
In the federal lawsuit, Mr. Knox claims that he never would have been arrested if the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office conducted a proper investigation, including speaking with all potential witnesses from the Paddock and the Alpine. He is seeking compensation for the five months that he was falsely arrested and imprisoned. Mr. Knox has also claimed malicious prosecution. In order to be successful on the malicious prosecution claim, Mr. Knox must prove that there was no probable cause to commence the lawsuit against him, that the lawsuit was commenced with malice, that the case was dismissed, and that he has suffered damages as a result of the prosecution.
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