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Woodbury police officer accused in federal lawsuit

A Woodbury police officer is accused of violating constitutional rights during a search of an Oakdale home in November, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court.

According to a complaint filed Dec. 19 in U.S. District Court, Lestter Cruz and Darlene Zemke allege Woodbury police officer Jeff Gottstein illegally removed a computer from their Oakdale home as part of a police investigation.

The complaint states Cruz allowed Gottstein and another Woodbury officer to enter the home he shares with his brother and sister-in-law, Zemke.

Gottstein was at the home to investigate allegations that Cruz had hacked emails of a third party and asked if he could look around, the complaint states.

Though the complaint states Cruz did not submit to the search, Gottstein allegedly walked around the home while another officer made sure Cruz didn’t leave his seat. Gottstein then summoned Cruz to come to another room, where he had found a computer, according to the complaint.

“If you tell me your [sic] were hacking emails, then I will leave,” the complaint states Gottstein told the man.

Cruz denied hacking emails, allegedly prompting Gottstein to say he was “gonna take [the] computer.”

Gottstein then left with the computer during what the suit alleges was a warrantless search.

The lawsuit claims Gottstein violated the Fifth Amendment by denying due process under the law, as well the Fourth Amendment, which prevents against illegal search and seizure.

Gottstein also faces a civil theft charge in the case, which seeks to indemnify the city of Woodbury since Gottstein was acting in an official capacity.

Woodbury Public Safety Department spokeswoman Michelle Okada said the department has no official comment.

“We don’t know what the specifics of the lawsuit are,” she said.

Okada said there is an active criminal investigation involving the two plaintiffs and that Gottstein remains on active duty.

No hearings for the civil lawsuit were scheduled as of last week.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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