(CN) – Police officers cannot dismiss claims that they handcuffed a naked U.S. marshal in his hotel room and questioned him that way for half an hour about his son, a federal judge ruled.
Michael Inman, a federal air marshal, and his girlfriend, Kelly Consalvo, booked into a Motel 6 in Leominster, Mass., a few miles away from their Lunenberg home on July 7, 2008.
At the same time, the police were looking for Inman’s 18-year-old son, Michael Inman II, whom they suspected of selling marijuana and cocaine, and believed to be armed and dangerous.
After receiving a tip that a car belonging to “Michael Inman” was parked at the Leominster Motel 6, police checked the guest register and arrived at the door rented out to Inman shortly after 11 p.m.
They did not have a warrant either to search the premises or for the arrest of Inman II.
The teenager’s father, who had been sleeping nude, wrapped himself in a towel and opened the door. The officers rushed into the room, weapons drawn. They immediately placed Inman in handcuffs and pushed him to the floor, although Inman identified himself as a federal marshal and had his gun and badge on the nightstand.
Officers told Consalvo to “get the fuck out of bed,” and placed her in handcuffs as well.
Inman stayed on the floor while an officer asked him where his son was. Then the officer pulled Inman to his feet, and Inman’s towel fell off. He stood naked as the officers shouted at him, demanding to know the location of his son.
One officer allegedly said, “Where’s your son at? You’re a piece of shit. You’re a liar. You’re going to lose your job over this.”
Thirty minutes after the cops entered the room, Detective Joseph Siciliano let Inman put on a pair of shorts. In return, Inman agreed to help locate his son by calling his cellphone. Both he and Consalvo made several calls but were unsuccessful at getting a hold of the teenager, and the officers left the hotel room.
Inman located his son in the following days, and arranged for him to turn himself in to the police.
In 2010, he and Consalvo filed a federal complaint against Leominster and six police officers.
Though U. S. District Judge Dennis Saylor granted the defendants summary judgment on some claims, he said unlawful entry and other claims can proceed.
“A guest in a hotel or motel is entitled under the Fourth Amendment to essentially the same protections as he or she would have at home,” Saylor wrote. “It is well-established that a warrantless entry into a residence is presumptively unconstitutional unless an exception applies.”
Though the defendants claimed that Inman’s gun created an exigent circumstance, the court disagreed.
“The difficulty with that position, however, is that the evidence does not establish that the firearm was plainly visible before the officers entered the room,” Saylor wrote (emphasis in original).
Saylor also took issue with the 30-minute naked detention.
“That prolonged (and humiliating) detention may have continued long after the initial circumstances that made it reasonable had subsided, and thus its continuation may have been unreasonable,” the 31-page decision states (parentheses in original).
“Their treatment of plaintiffs after entering the motel room obviously had indicia of a traditional arrest – in particular, physical restraint and the use of drawn weapons.” Saylor added. “Certainly a reasonable person in the position of plaintiffs might have understood himself or herself to be under arrest. But an arrest may be lawfully made only on probable cause to believe that plaintiffs were committing a crime, and no such probable cause existed here.”