NEW ORLEANS (CN) - Covington police officers assaulted a jewelry store owner and jailed her overnight after a passerby mistook her son's high school film project for a robbery, the woman says. Police arrived and interviewed the students, and because the officers "did not know what to do next," they arrested everyone, according to the federal complaint.
Janet Deluca says she was at her jewelry store, Deluca's Expressions in Gold, at 4 p.m. while her son and his classmates were filming a scene of a jewelry store heist. An unknown person passing by mistook the film project for a real robbery and called the cops.
Deluca says she and the students explained to the officers that "there was no emergency and that there had been a misunderstanding," But because Officer Jack West "did not know what to do next," he called his chief, Richard Palmisano, and "was ordered by Palmisano to arrest all the individuals involved."
The complaint continues: "The high school students were arrested. At the same time, for unknown reasons, the defendant, Osborne, acting on West's orders at the scene, grabbed the plaintiff, Deluca, spun her around, placed her arms behind her back, cuffed and arrested her."
Deluca says she asked why the officers were arresting her, but "neither could and/or would explain to her why."
She put in the back of a police vehicle and driven to the Covington Police Department station, where she was "detained in a very small holding cell and questioned for an extended period of time. "
After questioning, she was "transported to the St. Tammany Parish Jail, where she was held on charges of 'letting a disorderly place, criminal mischief, disturbing the peace by violent/disorderly conduct, and contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile.'" She stayed in jail until the "early morning hours," when she was released on a signature bond.
Deluca adds, "The foregoing events were widely publicized in print and television media in the weeks and months following," including details of her arrest. She says the Covington Police Department gave a TV station access to the "booking sheets" of those arrested. Since Deluca's personal information was not blotted out from the booking sheet, all her private information, including her Social Security number, was aired on TV and available to view on the station's Web site.
Deluca says she had to hire an identity protection company because of the illegal public display of her Social Security.
After the foregoing matter was screened by the St. Tammany Parish District Attorney's Office, the charges against the plaintiff and all of the high school students were refused."
Deluca says she was "embarrassed, humiliated, assaulted, battered, seized, falsely arrested, detained, falsely imprisoned and slandered." She seeks damages for battery, false imprisonment and defamation.
She is represented by Gary Bizal of New Orleans.