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Tioga County, New York Police Informant Paid $50,000 to Settle False Arrest Claims

In March 2014, Russell D. Towner was a prisoner at New York’s Tioga County Correctional Facility. Fellow prisoner David Nugent allegedly told Towner that he intended to kill or pay someone to kill ADA Cheryl Mancini. Nugent supposedly solicited Towner and other prisoners to assist him.

On March 26, 2014, Towner wrote Mancini to warn her of Nugent’s threats. Tioga County District Attorney Kirk Martin became aware of Towner’s letter on April 10, 2014. Martin contacted Towner’s attorney, Alan Stone, to arrange for Tioga County Sheriff’s Department investigators Patrick Hogan and Wayne Moulton to interview Towner at the jail.

That day, Towner and Stone met with Hogan and Moulton for a videotaped interview. Martin remained in an adjoining room and learned of the interview results soon after it ended.

“You will be acting as an agent of the police and nothing you say or do can be used against you,” Hogan advised Towner during the interview.“Show us you care about this woman's life.”

Towner ultimately agreed to assist police in obtaining evidence against Nugent.

Investigators proposed luring Nugent into the jail law library where they could listen to and record their conversations over an intercom.

Moulton told Towner that a jail guard identified in court documents as Shallberger would help him. Moulton said Shallberger would pass Towner notes and deliver his messages to Moulton.

Towner successfully lured Nugent into the law library, where he repeated his threat against Mancini on April 10, 2014. About one week later, Towner wrote Moulton, stating “a lot has happened since we spoke on Thursday.”

On May 8, 2014, Nugent’s wife Ashley Nugent bailed Towner out of jail. That same day, Tioga County Sheriff’s Department investigator Clifford (C.J.) Alexander affirmed under penalty of perjury that Towner intended to kill Mancini on or about April 3, 2014. Alexander further averred that Towner conspired with Ashley Nugent to bail out David Nugent so he could murder Mancini. Investigators Martin, Hogan, and Moulton then decided to arrest Towner for second-degree conspiracy to murder Mancini.

Contrary toAlexander’s sworn statement, the only evidence he had was that Towner had been working as an agent ofHogan and Moulton for the purpose of gathering evidence to allow them to prosecute Nugent. Alexander and the other investigators knew that Towner did not engage in any criminal conduct.

ThecriminalchargesagainstTownerwereultimatelydismissedonNovember5,2015, due to a lack of probable cause.

Towner brought suit in state court in 2018. The suit was subsequently moved to federal court where claims against Tioga County and several defendants were dismissed.

The remaining defendants, Moulton, Hogan and Alexander, entered into a confidential settlement agreement to pay Towner $50,000 on November 8, 2019. The agreement was reached four hours after jurors began their deliberations in the trial.

Of course, the settlement was“not an admission” that defendants“took any unlawful or wrongful act” or violated the law. See: Towner v.County of Tioga, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 34228. 

Related legal case

Towner v. County of Tioga