PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A police chief accused of stealing $714 from a former stripper's purse after a car chase is now facing a federal lawsuit that alleges he violated her constitutional rights.
The former stripper, Justina Cardoso, filed suit on Dec. 22 claiming Col. John Whiting violated the rights protecting her from illegal searches and granting her due process. The 21-year-old Cardoso, who lives in Pawtucket and performed at the Satin Doll strip club in Providence, is seeking $250,000 in damages from Whiting.
Whiting, of North Attleborough, Mass., has been suspended without pay from his job as North Providence police chief since his September arrest. He pleaded not guilty earlier this month to charges he stole the money from Cardoso's Coach pocketbook and then tried to cover it up. His next court date is Feb. 16.
Whiting was driving to work in an unmarked police vehicle on Aug. 28 when he activated his police lights and began chasing Cardoso's Ford Explorer in Pawtucket, police say. Whiting, 57, told police someone inside the Explorer threw an object at his vehicle as he was trying to pass it. The SUV, in which Cardoso was a passenger, had slowed down to try to get around a fallen tree, police said.
The chase ended when the SUV crashed into a parked car and the people inside fled.
Whiting later admitted to a Pawtucket officer that he stole money from a pocketbook "loaded with cash" that he found inside the SUV, investigators wrote in an affidavit. The Pawtucket officer said Whiting gave him the money and told him to spend it in Las Vegas and not discuss it.
Cardoso's lawsuit claims Whiting illegally went through her SUV and took her money, which police say she earned at the Satin Doll and from a man who paid her for "her company." She also claims Whiting violated her privacy.
Her civil attorney declined to comment on Tuesday. Messages also were left Tuesday for Whiting and his criminal defense attorney.
After the car chase, Cardoso was arrested on a warrant for an unrelated criminal matter. She pleaded no contest last month to three charges in an extortion and blackmail case and to one count of marijuana possession.
Defense attorney John Grasso has said Cardoso stopped working at the Satin Doll after Whiting's arrest and was unable to find new work as a stripper. Her stolen earnings and SUV were returned, but Cardoso could not afford to keep the vehicle, Grasso has said.
Cardoso was given a five-year suspended sentence in the blackmail case and a year of probation in the drug case. Grasso has said she avoided jail time by getting treated for drug abuse. He also said she is pursuing a GED.
Grasso said Tuesday that he hasn't spoken with Cardoso since her criminal case wrapped up last month.