An Acton man who was awarded $90,000 in damages after a judge ruled that he had been falsely accused is appealing the judge’s decision to shield his arresting officers from prosecution.

John Charron was arrested and charged with reckless conduct and criminal threatening in 2016 after two men accused him of driving his plow truck at them and damaging their car with his plow.

In August, U.S. District Judge John Woodcock ruled Charron was a victim of “classic malicious prosecution,” and ordered damages be paid by the two men whose false story had gotten him arrested and charged.

John Charron of Acton with his pickup truck in 2016. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

But the judge did not place any blame on the deputies whom Charron’s attorney said conducted a faulty investigation and wrongly arrested Charron at gunpoint.

On Tuesday, Charron’s attorney, Greg McCullough, argued to a panel of federal appeals judges in Boston that the responding officers knew the accusations were false, but arrested Charron anyway.

McCullough referred to photographs that one of the officers, York County Sheriff’s Deputy Rachel Horning, took while responding to the scene. The pictures showed the car Christopher Moss and Eric Pilvelait were in – a Pontiac Sunfire – had left tire tracks leading toward a ditch, which contradicted Moss’ and Pilvelaits’ statements to police accusing Charron of running into their car. Officers also had to wait at the scene for nearly 25 minutes for a tow truck, McCullough said, which should have given them enough time to notice inconsistencies.


“John Charron was arrested based on an implausible allegation, which was contradicted by exculpatory physical evidence,” McCullough said in the First Circuit Court of Appeals. “And that evidence corroborated Mr. Charron’s protestation of innocence when he was detained at gunpoint.”

Charron’s appeal names three other deputies, all of whom were dispatched to Langley Shores Road that night in 2016, after the sheriff’s office received reports of people yelling and a crash. When they arrested Charron, the deputies believed there was a feud between Charron, Moss and Pilvelait.

Officers detained Charron with their guns drawn, despite his “protestations of innocence,” McCullough told judges Tuesday. He spent roughly 14 hours in jail.

It turned out that Moss and Pilvelait were at fault, and that they had crashed their car into Charron’s plow truck. The tire tracks clearly showed they drove themselves into a ditch after hitting Charron’s truck. McCullough argued Tuesday that it was impossible for the investigating officers not to notice the tracks going into the ditch, which McCullough said were inconsistent with the young men’s story of Charron slamming his plow into their car.

John Wall, representing the sheriff’s deputies, said Tuesday that it doesn’t matter if there was enough evidence during Charron’s arrest to prove his innocence. There was no evidence, Wall said, that the officers noticed any inconsistencies at the time of the arrest.

“Qualified immunity was available to protect the officers,” Wall told the appeals court. “In this circumstance, with the information available to Deputy Horning, it clearly supported that a reasonable officer would make the same decisions.”


Wall was referring to a legal principle that government employees who are carrying out the duties of their jobs reasonably are immune from civil suits as long as they didn’t violate any workplace policies.

McCullough argued that it would have been impossible not to notice the lack of evidence to corroborate Moss’ and Pilvelaits’ statements.

“She took the photos, my goodness,” McCullough said, referring to pictures Horning took the night of Charron’s arrest, which included the tire tracks leading into the ditch and the fact that the damage was to the back of Charron’s plow, not the front, which conflicted with statements from Moss and Pilvelait that Charron had struck them.

“She took these photos,” he said. “How could (Wall) say that she was not aware of these tracks?”

In addition to the four deputies, Charron’s lawsuit also names York County Sheriff William King because, McCullough said, he has allowed a news release and a Facebook post containing the false accusations to remain online.

There is no deadline for when the First Circuit Court of Appeals must publish a decision on the case.

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