Judge dismisses complaint made by woman ‘tased’ by agents at Waddington checkpoint in 2015
Saturday, November 11, 2017 - 8:31 am

By JIMMY LAWTON

A federal judge has dismissed a legal complaint made by an Ogdensburg woman who was suing the U.S. government for $2 million after being shocked with an electronic control device in Waddington.

Jessica Cooke, who claimed she suffered injuries to her neck, back, wrists and shoulders, filed the lawsuit Feb. 28 in U.S. District Court, Syracuse. According to court documents Cooke stated she suffered emotional distress, mental anxiety, humiliation, indignity and shame. The suit states Cooke was deprived of her liberty and suffered an invasion of privacy.

Cooke, a Lisbon Central School and SUNY Canton graduate, filed a civil lawsuit against United States of America and border agents Nicole Martin and Chad Kenna. The complaints against the agents were dropped at an earlier court date following motions to dismiss filed by the defense attorneys.

In May 2015, Cooke said she was pulled in for a secondary inspection after agents said she appeared nervous at a Waddington immigration checkpoint.

According to the court documents, Martin then asked Cooke to pull her vehicle over to the side of the road. Cooke complied with the request and exited her vehicle. Cooke then inquired as to the probable cause for which the agents had her pull over so they could search the vehicle. Martin allegedly told Cooke she was awaiting the arrival of a canine officer to search the vehicle.

Agent Chad Kenna then arrived on the scene, documents say. At that point, Cooke asked Kenna why she was subjected to a traffic stop. Documents say Kenna became upset and was approximately 3 to 4 inches away from Cooke’s face making threats that frightened her and caused emotional distress.

Lawsuit documents state that agent Kenna then “violently and forcibly” assaulted Cooke by shoving her into the side of a her car and throwing her to the ground without “just cause or reason and/or legal authority.”

“As the Plaintiff was being forcibly held on the ground by agent Kenna and agent Martin, without just cause and upon information and belief, contrary to the policies and procedures of the Customs and Border Patrol, agent Martin violently and repeatedly tased the Plaintiff with her taser gun causing Plaintiff to suffer physical and emotional pain and injury.”

Cooke was then handcuffed and placed in a patrol car to await the canine unit. At this point, Cooke had not been charged with any crime or read her Miranda rights, documents say.

A search of Cooke’s vehicle revealed no illegal substances, contraband, drugs or illegal items. Cooke was then transported to the Customs and Border Patrol headquarters in Ogdensburg and was “forced against her will” to be placed in a holding cell for four hours and was then released.

Cooke was never charged with a crime, or traffic violation, following her release, court documents say.

The U.S. Department of Justice investigated the actions of Kenna and Martin and announced in December 2015 that it would not file criminal charges against the agents.

The incident was captured on video and went viral, sparking a wide range of public comment both in support and against Cooke’s actions. The video also raised questions about the legality of the actions taken by Cooke, as well as the agents involved.

Defense attorneys argued that Cooke failed to take appropriate action as needed to file a lawsuit against the United States.

“The complaint must be dismissed as a matter of law because she failed to exhaust her administrative remedies by presenting an administrative claim to the applicable agency, which is a prerequisite to suit under the FTCA and a jurisdictional requirement. Moreover, Plaintiff asserts claims for which the United States has not expressly waived sovereign immunity. As a matter of law, the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over such claims,” a motion to dismiss filed by defense attorneys says.

The judge agreed.

“It is ordered and adjudged that Defendant’s motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction is granted; and Plantiff’s Amended Complaint is dismissed,” Judge Glenn T. Suddaby said in his ruling issued Nov. 7.