Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Lawsuit filed against town, former cop

By Kym Soper
Journal Inquirer
Published: Wednesday, May 21, 2008 1:13 PM EDT

VERNON — A local woman has filed a notice of intent to sue the town and a former decorated police lieutenant, accusing him of lying on a warrant seeking her arrest.

Lt. John Collins, who retired earlier this year, was named in the suit filed by Jennifer Matava, of 9 George Drive.

Collins was the first in-school police officer at Rockville High School and was head of the detective division before retiring. He has received numerous awards, including a letter of commendation two months ago.

Matava was arrested on Sept. 3, 2006 and charged with one count of conspiracy to commit fourth-degree larceny. According to the lawsuit, she would not have been arrested if not for the false information Collins wrote in the warrant.

“As part of his malicious efforts to prosecute the petitioner without lawful basis, Collins knew, or should have known, that there was no probable cause to seek a warrant for the petitioner’s arrest,” Matava’s lawyer, Jon L. Schoenhorn writes in the two page document filed Monday with the Town Clerk.

Schoenhorn says that not only was false information included in Collins’ sworn affidavit, but also certain information was omitted that would have negated probable cause.

As a result, Collins committed fraud and deception of the issuing judge, a violation of Matava’s fourth amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure, Schoenhorn writes.

After enduring a jury trial and 40 minutes of deliberations, Matava was acquitted of the charges in January, according to the suit.

Matava “suffered emotional distress and incurred substantial legal fees as a direct consequence of the actions of Collins, acting on behalf of the Town of Vernon,” Schoenhorn writes.

She had originally been arrested in connection with a scam involving bad checks.

But Schoenhorn says Jennifer Matava was not an authorized signatory to the J & M Builders’ bank account listed in the warrant and could not determine account balances or codes necessary to stop payment. She also was not an authorized signatory on Matthew Matava’s bank account in reference to a separate uncharged matter, the suit claims.

The warrant also claims that Jennifer Matava’s name was generically lumped in with other family members who have been convicted, thereby causing the judge to believe she was responsible for her relatives’ actions, Schoenhorn says.

Certain family members are well known to police, and have extensive larceny records.

John Matava, 43, who lives at the same George Drive address as Jennifer Matava, was arrested in 2006 on charges of conducting a fake car auction scam.

Police say that he improperly posed as a car dealer and failed to deliver a vehicle paid for by an 18-year-old.

He was convicted on both charges of third-degree larceny and second-degree giving a false statement in connection with the incident, and served six months in jail.

According to court documents John Matava posed as a car dealer and claimed to have won an online auction for the teen, with whom he was acquainted. After telling the teen about the auction, John Matava took $3,400 from him but never delivered the vehicle.

John Matava was not a licensed car dealer in the state, never won the auction, and also lied to several officers and gave a false statement, the court found.

Jennifer Matava also has a police record showing two minor infractions: operating an unregistered motor vehicle on Feb. 3, 2007, and failure to comply with state traffic regulations on March 23, 2005. In both incidents she paid a $35 fine.

Police Chief James Kenny and Mayor Jason L. McCoy could not be reached today for comment.

Schoenhorn also was unavailable today.

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