A man who was falsely arrested by the Rotterdam Police Department for improperly submitting a photo for the sex offender registry list is now suing the department and the town over the four days he spent in jail.

William Harwood filed paperwork March 25 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York seeking a jury trial and damages after he said he suffered emotional distress from the incident.

Harwood, who is representing himself, said in court documents that in 2018 he was required to provide the department with an updated photo for the registry, where he was listed as a Level 1 sex offender.

“In 2018, Plaintiff insisted on coming into the state to take his updated photograph and submit it to the sex offender database,” Hardwood said in the court documents. “Officer Claude Sawyer, an employee of Rotterdam Police Department, instructed Plaintiff to not come into the police station and instead text a current photograph to Officer Sawyer’s phone.”

It wasn’t until 2020 when another officer at the department was looking through the database that the department realized there was not an updated photo for Harwood.

Harwood said he was brought in for questioning and that is when he explained what had happened.

“The officers refused to listen to Plaintiff, and did not ask Officer Sawyer for his account,” Harwood said.

Harwood was placed in jail on April 10. During his time in jail, Harwood said he gave his brother Sawyer’s email address.

“Plaintiff’s brother emailed Officer Sawyer the weekend the Plaintiff was in jail and Officer Sawyer replied, admitting his mistake,” Harwood said.


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