A controversial Philadelphia narcotics officer was slapped with a civil complaint March 1 accusing him of falsely arresting a man who was believed to be a drug dealer, but who claims he was wrongly fingered by a confidential informant.
Philadelphia Police Officer Jeffrey Cujdik is accused in the complaint of crafting an affidavit and arrest warrant based around false probable cause.
The complaint was filed at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by Philadelphia attorney Holly C. Dobrosky on behalf of Philadelphia resident Christopher Riebow.
In addition to Cujdik, the City of Philadelphia is named as an additional defendant.
The lawsuit alleges that Riebow was unlawfully arrested at his Neilson Street home back on Aug. 1, 2008, after one of Cujdik’s informants falsely stated that drugs were being sold out of Riebow’s home.
Riebow was subsequently imprisoned for two months, although the actual charges weren’t withdrawn by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office until late April 2010.
The lawsuit states that the confidential informant whose false allegations that she had previously bought drugs at Riebow’s house constituted the basis for the arrest warrant later admitted to the press and others that her claims about the drug purchasing were false.
Those admissions led to both a state and federal investigation of Cujdik and other members of his narcotics unit, and landed the group in newspaper headlines.
“The allegations with respect to prior sales of narcotics from the aforesaid location were material to the probable cause determination made by the judicial officer who authorized the search; indeed, without these allegations, the affidavit of probable cause contains no cause or reason to search,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit accuses Cujdik of disregarding proper police practices regarding the use of confidential informants.
The suit claims that in addition to searching Riebow’s home unlawfully, Cujdik and his fellow officers used “excessive and unreasonable force” in the execution of the search warrant, and Riebow’s subsequent arrest.
The officers “maliciously destroyed” Riebow’s personal property, the suit contends, which included throwing objects at the walls creating extensive damage.
The lawsuit says the city should have known about the “constitutional deprivations” committed by its police officers, and neglected and refused to enforce existing law or “systematically mal-administered the law.”
As a result of the criminal charges that were filed against him, Riebow incurred costs related to his legal representation, and he also suffered mental anguish, depression, nervousness, humiliation, personality change and a loss of life’s enjoyment, the complaint alleges.
The lawsuit contains civil rights violations as well as counts of negligence, gross negligence, malicious prosecution, malicious abuse of process of law, false arrest, false imprisonment, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Riebow seeks judgment in excess of $150,000, plus punitive damages, attorney’s fees and other court relief.
Riebow has demanded a jury trial.
The federal case number is 2:12-cv-01109-TON.