Allegations Against Lebanon Police Dismissed
West Lebanon — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by a Strafford man who has waged a years-long legal battle against the Lebanon Police Department.
U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Laplante found there is little evidence to suggest officers used unlawful force or attempted to cover up misdeeds.
Laplante recently tossed out all claims brought by Scott Traudt, who launched numerous actions in both criminal and civil court after he was arrested by two Lebanon police officers who had pulled over Traudt’s wife in 2007 as she drove away from the former Electra nightclub on Route 12A.
Charles Bauer, the attorney representing the police department, said the named defendants — officers Phillip Roberts and Richard Smolenski and Jim Alexander, the former police chief — were gratified that the judge affirmed the legality of their actions.
“They believed they were justified from the initial encounter through the conviction of Mr. Traudt in the criminal process, and they were confident they would be vindicated in the civil process, and they were,” Bauer said.
Traudt, who is representing himself, has appealed the judge’s decision to the First U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston. He also is seeking to have his criminal conviction stemming from the incident overturned. He served one year in prison for assault and disorderly conduct.
In an interview Wednesday, Traudt, a former operations manager at Cohort International, an Upper Valley-based military contractor, said he would continue to pursue the case.
“I respect the judge’s decision, but I respectfully believe he was wrong and believe his ruling does not comport with the law or the facts,” Traudt said. “At least I’m creating a paper trail and a (body) of evidence showing there are problems .... for the people of Lebanon.”
In January 2007, Traudt and his wife were driving home from the former Electra nightclub, and entered the intersection of Benning Street and Route 12A when Roberts pulled the car over for allegedly running a red light.
According to records, Smolenski and Roberts suspected Victoria Traudt of driving under the influence and administered a field sobriety test.
Police said Scott Traudt got out of the car and took an aggressive posture toward Roberts and Smolenski. When the officers tried to place him in handcuffs, Traudt punched Roberts in the head and picked up Smolenski and slammed him to the ground, according to court records.
“You want to fight, I’ll fight,” Traudt allegedly told the officers.
Roberts subdued Traudt by spraying him in the face with pepper spray.
Traudt claims that he was simply inquiring about his wife, and was attacked without provocation.
A Grafton County jury later acquitted Victoria Traudt.
In 2010, after his release from jail, Traudt filed a lawsuit, seeking punitive and compensatory damages, and other compensation and alleging that the officers engaged in an “unprovoked, panicked and reckless attack,” pulled him over illegally, violated his right to free speech, and tried to cover up for their wrongdoing. In his 44-page ruling dismissing the suit, Laplante said that Traudt was able to provide little evidence to support his claims.
“Traudt has not come forward with any evidence that it was false, i.e., that he did not in fact strike Roberts in the head, so that Smolenski could not have seen Traudt do so,” Laplante said. “So there is no evidence that the ‘conspiracy,’ if there was one, achieved its intended aim of depriving Traudt of his federally secured right not to be convicted on the basis of knowingly false testimony.”
In the interview, Traudt said he was frustrated that police turned over documents about the incident and the officers’ histories that were heavily redacted. He said he wants to keep fighting to gain access to the officers’ personnel files.
Mark Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3304.