Archive for Tuesday, January 17, 1995

TOPEKAN ALLEGES WRONGFUL ARREST IN CLAIM

January 17, 1995

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A Topeka woman claims she was unaware that her credit card was not accepted to pay a Lawrence hotel bill before she was stopped by police last August.

A woman who alleges she was falsely arrested by a Lawrence police officer last August for the alleged theft of services has filed a claim seeking $250,000 in damages from the city.

In her claim, Linda M. Wodzien, 45, alleges she was wrongfully arrested Aug. 17 for allegedly failing to pay a bill incurred during a two-night stay at the Bismarck Inn of Lawrence, 1100 N. Third. She claims she was unlawfully held for 22 days until charges filed by the Douglas County district attorney were dismissed.

Court records indicate that Wodzien, who now is living in Topeka, was charged Aug. 18 in district court with one count of misdemeanor theft of services. Bond in the case was set at $182.50. Prosecutors filed a motion and order of dismissal on Sept. 8, citing insufficient evidence to proceed with the prosecution.

In the claim, Wodzien's attorney, Donald Strole, Lawrence, states his client gave motel officials her Visa card when she checked in and signed a charge slip to cover security for and later payment of her two-night stay at the hotel. He states that when she left the hotel, she passed directly by the motel's front desk.

The claim states that, after Wodzien left the motel, the clerk called to get a charge verification number and was told that the card was not valid for the charge. The clerk then called police and gave them Wodzien's license tag number. She later was stopped by police, asked to return to the motel and subsequently arrested.

When she returned to the motel, Wodzien explained that although her credit card had been refused when she tried to buy oil for her car on Aug. 16, it was accepted when she purchased gasoline Aug. 17, before she left the motel.

Strole states that Officer P.H. Robinson had no probable cause to arrest Wodzien because he had no "probable cause to believe that Ms. Wodzien knew the card was not valid as of Aug. 15 when she checked in, or on Aug. 17 when she left, when he stopped her and made her return to the motel.''

Strole also argues that, at the time the arrest was made, Robinson knew that a charge on Wodzien's credit card had been authorized that same morning and that Wodzien was unaware that her credit card had not been accepted by the motel.

Police Chief Ron Olin declined comment on Wodzien's claim and referred an inquiry to Jerry Cooley, a member of the law firm that represents the city.

Cooley said last week he was still reviewing materials related to the case and had not decided what action he would recommend the city commission take.

The commission has 120 days from the date it receives the claim to respond to the claim. If no response is made, it is presumed the claim is denied, Cooley said.

If the claim is denied, Wodzien is then free to file a court action against the city.

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