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Inmate sues Watertown police over alleged warrantless arrest

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WATERTOWN — A state prison inmate has filed a federal lawsuit against the Watertown Police Department claiming two of its officers entered his residence without his permission to arrest him in January 2013.

Lawrence M. Bradford, 45, is serving a 2½-year prison sentence at Ogdensburg Correctional Facility after pleading guilty in Jefferson County Court in August 2013 to second-degree assault. He, along with Jermaine A. Nesmith, 31, was accused of forcibly stealing money and property from Jeffrey Jewett, Watertown, while striking him on the head and body, causing a cut above the victim’s eye and bruises on his body. Police said at the time that two cellphones, $200 in cash and a bottle of prescription pills were stolen.

In an action filed Friday in U.S. District Court, Mr. Bradford claims that Officers Chad Frederick and Shane Ryan entered his residence at 650 Bronson St. on Jan. 5, 2013, without a warrant, although Mr. Bradford concedes that his roommate, identified as Shara Bixby, let the officers into the house.

Mr. Bradford, however, claims that Ms. Bixby granted permission for the officers to enter only because of coercion. He claims that Ms. Bixby originally told the officers Mr. Bradford was not home, prompting them to ask if they could come inside and do a search.

She again said no, according to Mr. Bradford, at which time the officers allegedly “said in effect, ‘If you have nothing to hide, why can’t we search?’” according to the complaint.

Mr. Bradford maintains that because of the “pressure,” Ms. Bixby “let them in the house, pointed to my bedroom and walked away,” at which time he was arrested.

Mr. Bradford claims that even though the officers had Ms. Bixby’s permission to enter the residence, it was because she “was unable to resist” the officers, making his arrest illegal under the Fourth Amendment. He contends that he might not be in prison were it not for the alleged violation of his constitutional rights.

He has appealed his conviction and sentence to the state Appellate Division.

He claims that his imprisonment cost him his job at a restaurant and that he also lost a small recording studio he operated.

He also claims that his imprisonment forced his wife and children to move to another state, as he is no longer able to provide for them, among other alleged damages he has incurred.

The suit seeks $500,000 in damages. Mr. Bradford is acting as his own attorney.

Mr. Nesmith pleaded guilty in May 2013 to third-degree robbery and is serving a two- to four-year sentence at Ogdensburg Correctional Facility.

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