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Camden officer's ex-wife sues, alleging illegal arrest

The former wife of a suspended Camden police sergeant has sued the department and three sergeants, one of them her ex-husband, alleging that she was improperly arrested during a child-custody fight.

The former wife of a suspended Camden police sergeant has sued the department and three sergeants, one of them her ex-husband, alleging that she was improperly arrested during a child-custody fight.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in federal court by Nooshin Sampson of Pine Hill, follows the suspension of Sgt. Shane Sampson, 41, who also was charged criminally with harassment by the Camden County Prosecutor's Office on April 7 as a result of her arrest Dec. 28.

In addition to many allegations in the civil rights lawsuit, the document raises questions about how the department handled complaints against one of its own just months after he was arrested in another jurisdiction on disorderly-conduct charges.

"I don't think there's any question she was illegally arrested," said Joseph A. Osefchen of the Haddonfield law firm of Philip Stephen Fuoco, which filed the civil rights complaint. "He abused his position, and he got his coworkers to help him."

In the lawsuit, Nooshin Sampson alleges that her ex-husband and his close friend signed a bogus arrest warrant that was used to keep her shackled and in custody for eight hours.

"The eight-hour outrage perpetrated upon plaintiff could not have happened without the active aid and knowledge of other Camden City police officers, some of whom knew or should have known that the entire circumstances were highly improper," the lawsuit said.

Camden Police Chief Scott Thomson said Wednesday that an Internal Affairs investigation was continuing. Although he declined to comment on allegations made against specific officers, he said the main concern focused on the warrant and the arrest of Nooshin Sampson.

When she complained to the department, her ex-husband's weapon had already been confiscated, and he was on restricted desk duty. Additionally, Thomson said, an Internal Affairs complaint was taken.

"It was properly received and forwarded," Thomson said.

Jason Laughlin, spokesman for the Prosecutor's Office, said the case remained under investigation. The officers, through the department, declined to comment. William Buckman, Shane Sampson's attorney, did not return calls seeking comment.

Authorities said discord between the couple had unfolded over several years and involved police on various occasions. The couple share custody of their 2-year-old daughter.

In August, Monroe Township police were called to Shane Sampson's home in Williamstown, Gloucester County, where his ex-wife alleged he had removed her vehicle, according to a police report.

Police attempted to help her recover the Ford Explorer, but Shane Sampson, in a profanity-laced response, insisted that Nooshin Sampson get off his property and not return until the next day to pick up their daughter, according to the report.

Officers reported that when they tried to calm Shane Sampson, he complained that he had paid $12,000 in taxes for Monroe's "blue-uniformed pretty boys." As he advanced, officers reported, he had to be restrained as he ranted about the "Mayberry" police department. He was taken into custody and charged with disorderly conduct. The charges are pending, authorities said.

In December, Nooshin Sampson had permission from a Family Court judge to take their daughter to Florida but was supposed to bring her back to be with her father by Dec. 23, according to court documents.

On Dec. 21, she fell in Tampa and injured her shoulder, according to the lawsuit. A doctor advised her to postpone travel while her arm was secured in a sling for several days. She informed the court and her ex-husband that she and her daughter would return Dec. 28, the lawsuit says.

When the two arrived at Atlantic City International Airport, a state trooper served the arrest warrant that had been signed by Shane Sampson and another Camden officer, Sgt. Joseph McCray, who Nooshin Sampson alleges is a close friend of her ex-husband's.

The lawsuit says that Camden had no jurisdiction because neither party lived in the city. Even though the warrant alleged that Nooshin Sampson violated a custody order, the matter had never been reviewed by a judge, the suit says.

At the time of the arrest, Shane Sampson was at the airport, but the state trooper refused to give him custody of the child. Instead, he allowed Nooshin Sampson to call a relative to pick up the girl, and the officer waited until the two left before he handcuffed her mother and took her into custody, the lawsuit says.

After she remained in a holding cell in Atlantic County for four hours, an unidentified Camden police officer arrived, frisked and cuffed Nooshin Sampson, and transported her to Camden. She was "driven by this stranger in the dead of night through the Pine Barrens, handcuffed and shackled, as she begged him not to take her to her ex-husband," the lawsuit says.

She was processed at the Camden Police Department by another friend of her ex-husband's, Sgt. Suso Davila, who refused to let her speak to Internal Affairs before her release at 3 a.m., the lawsuit says.

After dawn, the lawsuit says, Nooshin Sampson returned to the Police Department to file an Internal Affairs complaint with Sgt. Paul Profera, who had attended the couple's wedding. She also attempted to file a complaint in Municipal Court, but was turned away, the lawsuit alleges. She then went to the Prosecutor's Office.

Earlier this month, Shane Sampson was suspended without pay and charged with official misconduct and harassment. He was released and forbidden to have any contact with his ex-wife.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensation, including punitive damages, as well as training for officers to prevent them from abusing their power.