Jewelry store owner who staged fake heist sues over false imprisonment

Michelle Massey Apr. 23, 2010, 4:00am

The owner of a Covington jewelry store is suing police for interrupting a staged robbery that was being filmed for a school project.

Deluca's Expressions in Gold owner Janet Deluca claims she was helping her son and several of his classmates film a mock robbery of the jewelry store on April 20, 2009, when a number of police officers arrived and arrested everyone involved.

Deluca claims an unknown citizen mistakenly believed the store was really being robbed and called the police. Once the police arrived, Deluca and the students explained the project but the Covington Police Department police chief ordered the officers to arrest all the individuals that were involved.

According to a lawsuit filed April 20 in the New Orleans federal court of the Eastern District of Louisiana, Deluca was patted down, searched, cuffed and arrested. When she was arrived at the jail she was told that she was being 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."

Although all the charges were dropped, Deluca said that the incident was widely publicized including personal information being aired on a local television station.

Deluca's suit names the city of Covington, Richard Palmisano, Jack West, David Osborne and unknown employees of the city, individually and in their capacities as police officers employed by the city.

She claims she was embarrassed, humiliated, assaulted, battered, seized, falsely arrested, detained, falsely imprisoned and slandered in violation of her First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution as well as rights guaranteed under state law.

Deluca states that due to the arrest and resulting publication of her personal information, she was forced to hire an identity protection company.

She is asking the for more than $250,000 in compensatory damages, punitive damages, legal costs, mental and emotional pain and suffering, damages for violations of her civil rights and right to privacy, attorney's fees and interest. Jury trial is requested.

New Orleans attorney Gary W. Bizal of Pierce & Bizal is representing Deluca.

U.S. District Judge Helen G. Berrigan is assigned to the case.

Case No 2:10cv01141

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