Former corrections officer suing Montgomery County, sheriff

FONDA — A complaint was filed on Aug. 8 by a former correction officer, Christina L. Facci-Brahler against Montgomery County, Sheriff Michael Amato and Undersheriff Justin Cramer alleging that she was maliciously charged and prosecuted on charges of second-degree promoting prison contraband.

Facci-Brahler is requesting a jury trial along with, compensatory damages in the amount of $1 million, punitive damages against Amato and Cramer each in the amount of $100,000, cost of this action, attorney fees and further relief as the court deems fair.

On May 16, 2016, Facci-Brahler was charged with second-degree promoting prison contraband for allegedly bringing her personal cell phone into the Montgomery County Correctional Facility.

According to the complaint, many other correction officers, officials and other employees had brought their cell phones into the correctional facility.

“However, on information and belief, no other correction officers, officials or employees had ever been criminally charged as a result of such conduct or alleged conduct prior to Ms. Facci-Brahler’s arrest and prosecution and none have since been charged or prosecuted,” the complaint states. “The decision to arrest, charge, and prosecute Ms. Facci-Brahler was made based on unlawful discrimination against her on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, sex, and as a person who had previously engaged in protected conduct by having complained of having been subjected to unlawful discrimination in employment by defendants county and Amato.”

Prior to the charges made against Facci-Brahler, she alleges she faced racial, ethnical and gender-based harassment from co-workers on a regular basis since she began working at the correctional facility and throughout most of her employment.

The complaint states, “This included co-workers expressing negative and stereo-typed statements regarding people of color, women, people of Latin America background. These incidents, which created a hostile work environment for Ms. Facci-Brahler, included the posting in the break-room of cartoons with racist stereotypes, such as images purporting to make a correlation between Puerto Ricans ‘can’t be trusted’ and that they ‘always bring in contraband.’”

According to the complaint, other incidents include a co-worker implying to Facci-Brahler that her husband who is white can no longer be considered “white” since he married her; a co-worker told her that he wished he “could get paid for shooting Mexicans, because they are stealing all our jobs.”

According to the complaint, Facci-Brahler did complain about her discriminatory treatment to supervisors in the sheriff’s department, including Amato on several occasions, and her complaints of discrimination weren’t taken seriously.

In October 2009, Sheriff Amato called a meeting with Facci-Brahler, in which he dismissed her allegations of discrimination, threatened to charge her with insubordination and did not claim that the meeting would require a union representation, which violated her rights under the collective bargaining agreement.

This lead to Facci-Brahler filing a complaint in February 2010 for unlawful discrimination in employment against the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department with the state Division of Human Rights and with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission.

The complaint was investigated by the state Division of Human Rights, which dismissed it.

According to the lawsuit, following that 2010 complaint, defendants penalized Facci-Brahler on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex and disability to “retaliate” against her for the complaint.

The complaint states, Facci-Brahler “was arrested on May 16, 2016, and maliciously charged and prosecuted by defendant Cramer, acting on his own behalf and on behalf of defendants Amato and Montgomery County, on a charge of promoting prison contraband 2nd degree, a class A misdemeanor.”

On May 18, 2017, the charge was dismissed and terminated by Glen Town Court.

“As a result of the defendants’ actions, Ms. Facci-Brahler lost her employment and experienced significant psychological, emotional, and physical suffering due to being maliciously prosecuted and subjected to unlawful discrimination and retaliation by the defendants,” the according to the complaint.

By Josh Bovee

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