The E. Stewart Jones Law Firm has filed notice of an intended lawsuit on behalf of a client who had interacted with the Watervliet police officer charged earlier this month. The officer has been charged with four felony counts of third-degree criminal sex act, the legal term for sodomy, and misdemeanor charges of child endangerment and official misconduct.
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Watervliet, NY – The city and city school district face a lawsuit over the conduct of suspended Officer Joshua Spratt when he was the police department’s school resource officer at Watervliet High School, city officials said Thursday night. A notice of claim was served on the city Thursday before its monthly City Council meeting.
The council adjourned into executive session to discuss the pending legal action. “We just received it. We’re reviewing it,” Mayor Michael Manning said. The notice was filed by the law firm of E. Stewart Jones, Hacker, Murphy on behalf of the claimant who had interacted with Spratt. This is the first step to be taken in suing a municipality and its employees.
The notice names Spratt, the police department, the city, the Watervliet City School District and the city Board of Education, officials said. Spratt was indicted by an Albany County grand jury for allegedly having sexual relations with two girls, a 16-year-old and a 17-year-old, while he worked as the school resource officer. The charges against Spratt are four felony counts of third-degree criminal sex act, the legal term for sodomy, and misdemeanor charges of child endangerment and official misconduct. Spratt was arrested July 31 by State Police after the Watervliet police turned the case over to the state agency for investigation. The sealed indictment was opened Aug. 3 in Albany County Court. At that time, Spratt pleaded not guilty to the charges. State Supreme Court Justice Thomas Breslin issued three orders of protection for the two girls and for a witness. Spratt was suspended without pay from the Watervliet Police Department. He is free on $50,000 bail.
Officer Sam Razzano was placed on paid administrative leave while the State Police investigate him for allegations tied to the Spratt case of misconduct while on duty. The pending lawsuit came as the City Council heard residents concerns about the naming of the two teenagers on a Facebook page that was created to support Spratt. The page included personal information about the two girls and it was quickly deleted. Police Chief Ronald Boisvert told residents that the State Police are investigating to determine who posted the Facebook page. Sheri Cassidy, one of the organizers of a protest outside City Hall last week on this subject, questioned why there hasn’t been a public meeting on the issue.
There were complaints that City Council members had not spoken out. Manning and Boisvert said the decision was made to have the chief speak to the media regarding the Spratt case as well as the drug case involving former Officer Nicholas Pontore. Manning said when the Spratt case was handed to the State Police, an arrest was made within a week. Pontore faces multiple counts of drug possession, conspiracy and official misconduct for allegedly providing protection to the Young Gunnerz, a violent Troy-based gang of drug dealers, according to the State Attorney General’s Office investigation. Pontore gave the Watervliet Police Department evidence that sparked the investigation of Spratt and led to his eventual arrest. Bosivert said the department checked on rumors about Spratt’s behavior at the high school, but never received any complaints. Councilwoman Ellen Fogarty told the 35 people attending the meeting that the council supports the police department and other city employees.
Story by Ken Crowe, Times Union, firstname.lastname@example.org, 518-454-5084