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Connecticut or Communist Poland, Priest Asks

(CN) - Two Roman Catholic priests say in federal court that Connecticut State troopers investigating an armed robbery barged into the rectory and subjected them to a humiliating search.

The Rev. Richard Sliwinski says he lives in the rectory adjoining Saint Mary of Czestochowa Church, a Polish-American Roman Catholic parish in Middletown, Ct., where he is pastor. While Sliwinksi was cooking there with Father Przemyslaw "Greg" Jednaki, a friend from a neighboring church, on April 16, 2012, Trooper Scott Wisner "unlawfully entered the home" at around 9:30 p.m., according to the complaint.

"Wisner told Father Richard to stop what he was doing, and then began interrogating Father Richard, who was polite and compliant," the complaint says.

Jednaki says Wisner questioned him, as well, and that he was also "polite and compliant."

As several other troopers descended on the church, Wisner then allegedly brought Sliwinksi to the garage, handcuffed him and searched his car, all without explaining what he was looking for or why.

"Outside, Father Richard remained handcuffed, and was stood between two police cars," the complaint states. "Two of the defendant Officers Doe and one defendant Trooper Doe confronted the plaintiff, taunting and humiliating him. The defendants stated sarcastically, 'You are a priest? Wow! And you did this?' Father Richard had no idea what the defendants were referring to."

Wisner still refused to explain his search, and he refused to let Sliwinksi, who was shivering in a T-shirt and shorts, get a jacket, according to the complaint.

Wisner allegedly admitted after 50 minutes that "this was all a misunderstanding.

Sliwinksi says he replied: "Between whom? You did not ask me anything about whatever had occurred."

Wisner then allegedly said that Sliwinksi was a suspect in an armed robbery of a gas station in Haddam. But even though Wisner believed Sliwinksi did not commit the crime, the troopers continued their search.

"During the search, the defendants asked Father Richard why he was nervous while being held, in handcuffs, in his driveway outside his home," according to the complaint. "Father Richard replied that 'thirty years ago, during Martial Law in my native country of Poland, the Communist regime Secret Security Service treated me that same way as you are doing - interrogation, handcuffing and imprisonment' for no reason. Father Richard told the defendants that he could not believe that such a thing could happen in the United States, in a democracy."

During Sliwinksi's detention outside, the troopers were interrogating Jednaki inside the house, according to the complaint.

Jednaki says he "was polite and cooperative," but that the troopers became agitated and handcuffed him when he said that he had been to a gas station in Middletown earlier that day. They did so "despite knowing that the gas station which had been robbed was in a different town," according to the complaint.

While the troopers searched the house, they allegedly told Jednaki that is Sliwinksi is "involved in something serious."

Jednaki says they eventually took the handcuffs off him but refused to let him leave the scene for another 40 minutes.

The troopers ended up bagging ski masks and gloves during their search, but they returned these items at 11:40 p.m., 10 minutes after they left, to "conceal their unlawful conduct toward plaintiffs," according to the complaint.

Sliwinksi and Jednaki says the search harmed their reputation in their parishes.

They seek punitive damages for false arrest, unreasonable search and seizure, and emotional distress. William Palmeri of New Haven represents the priests.

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