Ex-Police Chief Settles Lawsuit

Saturday, December 20, 2014
New London — Former New London police Chief David Seastrand and a Colby-Sawyer student who accused him of asking her to pose nude have settled a lawsuit filed earlier this year on the student’s behalf.

The town’s insurance provider is paying $70,000 to the woman on behalf of the town and Seastrand, according to court documents.

Seastrand was forced to resign last year and forfeit his credentials after the student, Janelle Westfall, claimed he had offered to drop underage drinking charges against her if she posed for photographs.

The state Attorney General’s Office investigated but declined to prosecute, despite similar claims from three other women. Authorities said they lacked enough evidence to win at trial.

Westfall’s lawsuit, filed in June, argued that Seastrand had “manipulated the criminal justice process for his own prurient ends.”

Westfall’s attorney, Richard Lehmann, confirmed Friday that she agreed last month to drop the suit, in which she was pursuing a jury trial, in exchange for the settlement.

The majority of the settlement — $62,500 — is being paid “on behalf of” Seastrand, while the remaining $7,500 is being paid on behalf of the town of New London.

Both Seastrand and the town are being covered by insurance provider Property-Liability Trust, Inc., commonly known by its former name, the Local Government Center Property Liability Trust, LLC.

Westfall was 18 at the time of her arrest on March 3, 2013. She and her parents told investigators they met with Seastrand two days later and agreed to resolve the offenses through 100 hours of community service.

The next day, however, Seastrand allegedly called her back to the police station and said the volunteer option had fallen through. He offered to drop the charges entirely if she posed nude, Westfall said, and he explained that the images would be collateral against word leaking about the deal.

The settlement, signed in October and approved by a judge last month, includes a “non-admission” clause, stating that the settlement should “not be construed, considered, or understood ... as an admission of liability, wrongdoing, or culpability” on the part of the parties involved.

“The purpose of this Release is to ‘buy peace’ from further dispute and controversy between and among (the parties),” it said.

In an email, Lehmann said that Westfall has not returned to Colby-Sawyer.

“Janelle is generally doing well but is unlikely to return to Colby-Sawyer,” he said. “She is moving forward with her life. She is interested in pursuing legislation that would make sure that if anyone else is put in the situation she was, it would be clear that it was a crime.”

New London Town Administrator Kimberly Hallquist provided a reporter with a copy of the settlement document but declined comment.

Seastrand’s attorney, Charles Bauer, said that “in this case, the settlement document speaks for itself.

“I’m not going to comment on this particular case; however, what the public needs to realize is that over 90 percent of all civil cases do not go to a jury trial,” he said. “They get settled, and most of those cases get settled for business reasons that have nothing to do with wrong-doing or responsibility.”

Valley News staff writer Maggie Cassidy contributed to this report.