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Friday, January 29, 2010

Odd Pattern of Protection by Federal Courts

Two more civil rights lawsuits against Harrison police dismissed
The Journal News by Theresa Tjuva - January 29, 2010

HARRISON, NY — A federal judge has tossed out two more civil rights lawsuits against the police, making them the 10th and 11th lawsuits to end favorably for the troubled department. "It shows that each and every one that has been brought by a small group of miscontents and (attorney) Mr. (Jonathan) Lovett is entirely frivolous," Town Attorney Frank Allegretti said. "It vindicates the leadership of the police department." Chief Magistrate Judge George Yanthis dismissed claims Friday that the force's top brass violated police officers' free speech when they told them not to discuss the investigation of a missing $2,500 Harrison PBA donation. Harrison detectives learned in 2007 that a cashed check written to the Harrison PBA had been altered to the "Chiefs Police Association," which was headed by now former Police Chief David Hall. The plaintiffs, which included former PBA president Ralph Tancredi, who has filed other failed lawsuits, charged that after they wrote a letter to their superiors about the alleged crime, they were forbidden to discuss it. Yanthis wrote in his decision that the letter was not "a matter of public concern," but even if it was, the department "had a substantial interest in protecting the on-going investigation and thus limit the officers' speech to each other." The District Attorney's Office cleared Hall of any wrongdoing. Yanthis also dismissed a suit from police officer William Duffelmeyer against the town. Duffelmeyer claimed he was denied a promotion to sergeant because he was named a plaintiff in the missing donation lawsuit and a suit that accused police leaders of planting a video camera in the men's locker room. Tancredi said he was surprised by the latest outcome. "I'm baffled," he said by phone. "I'm discouraged by it." Allegretti said the town has spent an estimated $500,000 defending the 13 civil rights lawsuits filed since 2007. All of them have been dismissed or withdrawn, and two more are pending. Lovett did not return a phone message seeking comment. TJUVA@LOHUD.COM

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