Richer awarded $20,000 after police kept weapons for six years

Richer awarded $20,000 after police kept weapons for six years

NORTH SMITHFIELD – A federal jury on Wednesday awarded $20,000 in damages to Jason Richer, a resident of Douglas Pike, as compensation for the violation of his due process rights after North Smithfield Police refused to return lawfully possessed weapons they had seized and kept from him for six years.

The ruling stemmed from a 2008 incident in which police confiscated three registered guns from a locked safe in Richer’s garage after his now ex-wife reported he was suicidal. After submitting to a mental health evaluation at Landmark Medical Center and being discharged shortly after arrival, Richer attempted to regain possession of the weapons. Though no charges were filed, police refused to return the guns and told Richer he would need to obtain a state court order to get them back, according to an announcement by the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island.

The process dragged on for six years, at which point the ACLU filed suit on Richer’s behalf in federal court. Shortly after the suit was filed in 2015, the town agreed to return the weapons, but a judge’s ruling allowed Richer to proceed with a claim for damages. Wednesday’s decision by a jury awards those damages as a result of the violation of Richer’s due process rights.

According to the ACLU, the verdict is important for other due process cases around the state, including in Cranston, where the organization filed a similar case in 2015 over the police department’s refusal to return weapons to resident Edward Caniglia.

“After being ignored by the town for over six years, it was very satisfying to have my day in court and to be heard by a jury of my peers,” said Richer. “On top of that, I appreciate that the jury recognized the emotional distress that I suffered from this loss of my constitutional rights and my property. I feel vindicated in my years-long effort to bring this matter to conclusion, and I hope that this verdict will convince other police departments to promptly return any property they are illegally holding so that no one else will have to endure the hurdles I encountered.”