A Salt Lake County woman and her three children are suing the county and three county constables for $250,000. They claim that the three constables violated their civil rights by illegally entering their home on three occasions, searching the home twice without warrant and physically preventing the mother from calling the police.
Attorneys for Tammy Ostenburg and her children have filed a notice of claim with the county pursuant to the Utah Governmental Immunity Act. By law, the county must be notified of a suit naming it as a defendant before the complaint is filed. The $250,000 figure is not listed in the claim itself but in a letter to the county from the plaintiffs' attorney, Mary C. Corporon.Bill Hyde, chief deputy of the civil division of the Salt Lake County attorney's office, said he just received the papers Wednesday morning and had not researched the case, so he couldn't comment on its substance.
He said he did not know why the constables went to the Ostenburg home. They were special-function officers acting as warrant servers. "In most instances it's for the justices of the peace."
The claim alleges that on Aug. 15, 16 and 30, one or more of the constables entered the Ostenburg residence without a warrant and without Mrs. Ostenburg's permission. At 2:20 a.m. on Aug. 16, it says, constables Craig Kerkman and Bill McCall knocked on the door of the Ostenburg residence. When Tammy Ostenburg answered, her dog was with her and began barking. "Kerkman placed his hand on a gun in his waistband and advised Tammy Ostenburg that if she did not put her dog away, he would kill her dog," the claim says.
Mrs. Ostenburg claims to have asked the two men for a search warrant. "Kerkman advised her that he did not need a search warrant to enter her home. Kerkman and McCall proceeded to search the entire Ostenburg household, including opening closets and drawers and going into each room of the house."
A third constable, Bill Alexander, joined the two men, announcing that he had already searched the garage and back yard, the claim says.
"Alexander, McCall and Kerkman awakened and terrified the three minor plaintiffs by turning on the lights in their bedroom while they were asleep and searching under their beds and in their closet."
The claim says McCall returned to the home two weeks later, on Aug. 30, claimed he had a search warrant and demanded entry. When Tammy Ostenburg asked to see a search warrant, McCall showed her only an arrest warrant for her husband, Charles Ostenburg, on a Class B misdemeanor.
The claim alleges that she asked him to leave but he refused and searched the home again, opening all closets and doors and looking in on two minor children who were bathing in the bathroom. While McCall searched the house, Mrs. Ostenburg tried to call the police.
"McCall snatched the telephone from her hands, hung up the telephone and refused to permit her to make a telephone call from her home," the claim says.
The document alleges that the defendants' actions constitute trespass, false imprisonment, assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.