Prosecutorial Misconduct — The Complaint

Below is the text of the Complaint that is being filed today regarding the Rensselaer DA’s office. I post this not to focus people on this particular case, but rather to raise awareness of prosecutorial misconduct and the consequences of such conduct in general around the country. As congressman, I will fight for federal legislation to eliminate the absolute immunity prosecutors currently have for much of their misconduct. That immunity does not apply here to extradition, and it does not apply to the failure to train and supervise employees, but in far too many cases it is a shield protecting bad prosecutors.

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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
__________________________________________________
JEREMY PHILLIPS and KELLY CHADWICK, individually
And as parent and natural guardian of COURTNEY PHILLIPS
and SHELBY PHILLIPS,
Plaintiffs,
v. COMPLAINT

PATRICIA DEANGELIS AS DISTRICT ATTORNEY
OF RENSSELAER COUNTY, JOSEPH AHEARN,
WILLIAM ROBERTS, JOHN DOE, an unidentified
employee of the Rensselaer County District Attorney,
and RENSSELAER COUNTY,

Defendants. JURY TRIAL
__________________________________________________ DEMANDED

1. This is a civil action brought to redress the violation of rights secured to the Plaintiffs under federal law and the United States Constitution.

PARTIES
2. Plaintiffs are citizens of the United States and residents of the State of Illinois, County of Cook, Town of Streamwood.
3. Plaintiff Jeremy Phillips was wrongfully accused of Grand Larceny, wrongfully extradited by the Rensselaer County Defendants, and wrongfully detained for a period of 29 days due to the misconduct of the Rensselaer County Defendants.
4. Plaintiff Kelly Chadwick is the wife of Jeremy Phillips.
5. Plaintiffs Courtney and Shelby Phillips are the daughters of Plaintiffs Jeremy Philips and Kelly Chadwick ages 12 and 6, respectively.
6. Defendants Ahearn, Roberts and Doe, residents of the State of New York, are Assistant District Attorneys employed by Defendants Rensselaer County District Attorney and County of Rensselaer.

FACTS
7. Plaintiff Jeremy Phillips, then a resident of the State of Massachusetts, was employed as the store manager of Advantage Auto Parts in the State of New York, County of Rensselaer, Town of North Greenbush, from roughly October of 2003 to January of 2004.
8. In January of 2004, Plaintiff’s employment was terminated.
9. On or about July 17, 2005, the New York State Police filed a Felony Complaint against Plaintiff in the North Greenbush Town Court, accusing Plaintiff of Grand Larceny.
10. Plaintiff Phillips was and is innocent.
11. On or about July 25, 2005, the New York State Police obtained a warrant for the arrest of Plaintiff Phillips from the North Greenbush Town Court, Hon. Raymond Elliott.
12. On or about February 21, 2006, the New York State Police requested that Defendant William Roberts, in his role as Assistant District Attorney for the Rensselaer County District Attorney and the County of Rensselaer, issue a warrant for the extradition of Plaintiff Phillips.
13. Defendant William Roberts issued the extradition warrant on or about March 7, 2006.
14. Defendant Roberts’ action was illegal, improper, unconstitutional, and exhibited a depraved indifference to the welfare and constitutional rights of Plaintiff Phillips.
15. Defendant Roberts did not read the file before ordering the extradition.
16. On information and belief, Defendant Roberts consulted with Defendants Ahearn and Doe before ordering the extradition, and obtained their approval.
17. Defendants Ahearn and Doe did not read the file before approving the extradition.
18. The District Attorney Defendants knew or should have known that there was insufficient evidence in the file to sustain a felony complaint.
19. The District Attorney Defendants knew or should have known that there was insufficient evidence in the file to authorize extradition.
20. Plaintiff Jeremy Phillips was arrested on March 8, 2006 in Streamwood, Illinois and held in custody in Chicago by a warrant issued in North Greenbush Town Court.
21. The felony complaint charged Plaintiff with the crime of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, a D Felony, and allegedly arose out of his work for Advantage Auto Parts in North Greenbush around the dates of December 2003 and January of 2004.
22. The Rensselaer County District Attorney’s Office ordered, directed, and commanded that plaintiff be extradited from Illinois.
23. Neither Defendant Roberts nor Defendant Ahearn nor anyone else in the Rensselaer County District Attorney’s Office reviewed the file before ordering extradition.
24. Pursuant to the order of the Rensselaer County District Attorney’s Office, on March 7th 2006, a day before plaintiff was arrested, Defendant William Roberts stated that his office would be willing to extradite Plaintiff back to New York and advised police officers in New York to arrest Plaintiff.
25. The sole basis for the felony complaint was a hearsay statement by an employee of Plaintiff’s former company, Gary Betts.
26. In his statement, taken on January 27, 2004, Betts says “I was told by someone, I don’t recall exactly who told me, that money was missing that should have been deposited.”
27. Betts’ statement consisted entirely of hearsay, and did not identify the Plaintiff as the perpetrator of any crime.
28. There was no other factual basis for the complaint or any warrant to be issued.
29. Defendant Roberts stated that the US Marshalls Office would be used to bring back Plaintiff and that the US Marshalls were in contact with the County District Attorney’s Office.
30. On March 16th, Plaintiff waived his extradition hearing allowing him to immediately return to New York.
31. The US Marshall’s Service refused to provide transportation for plaintiff because they were not involved in the initial case.
32. Defendants knew or should have known that the US Marshall’s Service would not provide transportation.
33. Defendants’ negligence in coordinating with the Marshall’s Service led to a substantial delay in plaintiff’s extradition.
34. Defendant William Roberts, and Defendant Joseph Ahearn, also an employee of the Rensselaer County District Attorney’s Office, both refused to consent to bail while the plaintiff was in Chicago.
35. Neither Defendant Roberts nor Defendant Ahearn reviewed the file at the time they refused to consent to bail.
36. Defendant Ahearn stated reason for not getting Plaintiff here in a more timely manner was: “We’re not travel agents.”
37. Plaintiff was finally extradited back to New York on April 5th. Plaintiff spent 29 days in custody.
38. Plaintiff had to pay his own way to get home to Chicago after getting out on bail.
39. The Plaintiff and his family were required to expend $5000 to make bail.
40. The Plaintiff and his family were also required to expend $5000 on attorney fees to represent him in defense of the criminal charge.
41. Plaintiff was employed in Illinois at the time of his arrest with a wife and two children, ages 5 and 11, plaintiffs herein.
42. The delay in bringing Plaintiff to New York was not attributable to Plaintiff, but rather to the District Attorney’s Office for their utter indifference to plaintiff and his family.
43. The Rensselaer County Grand Jury returned a “no bill” for Plaintiff on September 29, 2006.
44. During the course of Plaintiff’s unlawful incarceration for 29 days, Plaintiff was unable to see his young children and his contact with his wife was severely limited.
45. The Rensselaer County District Attorney’s Office has been cited for numerous violations involving prosecutorial misconduct in the past.
46. Most recently, the C
ourt of Appeals cited Rensselaer County District Attorney Patricia DeAngelis for “deplorable” conduct in the prosecution of Robert Gorghan.
47. The Appellate Division, Third Department of New York had previously overturned the initial conviction of Gorghan in 2004 and said at the time that DeAngelis “repeatedly strayed beyond the bounds of permissible conduct.”
48. In August of 2006, although not specifically cited as the reason for reversal, in the overturning of a murder conviction of Christine Wilhelm, prosecuted by the Rensselaer County District Attorney’s Office, the Third Department, Appellate Division said “prosecutors have wide berth to advocate for their case, there are limitations….and should not seek to lead the jury away from the issues by drawing irrelevant and inflammatory conclusions which have a decided tendency to prejudice the jury against the defendant”.
49. In January of 2006, a rape conviction against Burton Hunter was overturned because the Assistant District Attorney handling the original trial failed to disclose a prior accusation of rape by the victim, which the Court considered Brady material.
50. The District Attorney’s Office has also been cited for misconduct in the handling of Jack Carroll’s prosecution for rape and sexual abuse including specifically for allegations of misleading the jury.
51. In a case against Thomas Levandowski, District Attorney DeAngelis was again cited for misconduct. In a decision, the Appellate Decision, Third Department, the Court said, “the prosecutor’s conduct through the course of the trial was so pervasive as to deprive defendant of a fair trial.”
52. On information and belief, Defendant District Attorney was also admonished for prosecutorial misconduct in 1998 for her actions in front of a Grand Jury.
53. Defendant County was aware of these and other instances of misconduct by the District Attorney’s Office, and failed to adequately train and supervise that office.
54. With this as a background, Plaintiff, through counsel, does hereby complain and allege as follows:

JURISDICTION

55. This Court has jurisdiction over this action under the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1341, 1341 & 1343 because it is filed to obtain compensatory and punitive damages for the deprivation, under the color of state law, of the rights of citizens of the United States secured by the Constitution and federal law pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and §1983.
56. Venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(e)(2) because the events giving rise to Plaintiff’s claims occurred in this judicial district.

FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION
Violation of Constitutional Rights Under Color of State Law Malicious Prosecution by Wrongful Extradition
57. Plaintiff incorporates by reference and realleges each and every allegation stated in paragraphs 1 through 56.
58. The United States Constitution protects citizens from malicious prosecution by law enforcement officers, and prohibits officers from prosecuting and extraditing individuals where there is no probable cause to believe that they have engaged in criminal conduct.
59. The actions of Defendants Rensselaer County District Attorney, Joseph Ahearn, William Roberts, John Doe, and the County of Rensselaer above violated Plaintiff’s rights under the United States Constitution. It was not objectively reasonable for these Defendants to extradite Plaintiff for the felony of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree based upon Gary Betts’ statement that “I was told by someone, I don’t recall exactly who told me, that money was missing that should have been deposited.” In short, the allegations created no probable cause whatsoever that plaintiff committed the said crime.
60. Defendants’ actions were motivated by bad faith, malice, and indifference to Plaintiff Jeremy Phillips and his family, including Plaintiffs Kelly Chadwick, Shelby Phillips, and Courtney Phillips.
61. The criminal prosecution of Plaintiff was terminated in his favor after a no bill at Grand Jury.
62. Plaintiff’s prosecution resulted in his loss of liberty, given that he spent 29 days in custody and had to endure costly criminal court proceedings to clear his name.
63. This conduct on the part of defendants also represents a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 given that their actions were undertaken under color of state law.
64. As a direct and proximate result of the unconstitutional acts described above, Plaintiff has been irreparably injured.
65. Defendants District Attorney and County are vicariously liable for the misconduct of Defendants Roberts, Ahearn and Doe.

SECOND CAUSE OF ACTION

Violation of Constitutional Rights Under Color of State Law
The Application of Excessive Bail

66. Plaintiff incorporates by reference and realleges each and every allegation stated in paragraphs 1 through 65.

67. The Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects citizens from the imposition of excessive or punitive bail by law enforcement officials and mandates that an individual be provided with bail no higher than that necessary to assure his appearance at court.

68. Upon information and belief, Plaintiff was initially denied bail by the East Greenbush Town Court because Defendant Roberts and Defendant Ahearn failed to read Plaintiff’s file and also made false representations that Plaintiff was a fugitive from justice.

69. The actions by Defendant Roberts and Defendant Ahearn violated Plaintiff’s right to be free from the imposition of excessive bail as detailed in the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

70. Defendant’s actions were motivated by bad faith, malice, and an indifference to the rights of Plaintiff.

71. This conduct on the part of Defendant Roberts and Defendant Ahearn also represents a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 given that their actions were undertaken under the color of state law.

72. As a direct and proximate result of the unconstitutional acts described above, Plaintiff has been irreparably injured.

73. Defendants District Attorney and County are vicariously liable for the misconduct of Defendants Roberts and Ahearn.

THIRD CAUSE OF ACTION

Violation of Constitutional Rights Under Color of State Law
False Arrest and Imprisonment

74. Plaintiff incorporates by reference and realleges each and every allegation stated in paragraphs 1-74.

75. Based upon the misconduct of the Defendants, Plaintiff was arrested and illegally imprisoned.

76. At no point was Plaintiff free to leave.

77. Defendant’s actions were motivated by bad faith, malice, and an indifference to the rights of Plaintiff.

78. This misconduct on the part of Defendant Roberts and Defendant Ahearn also represents a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 given that their actions were undertaken under the color of state law.

79. As a direct and proximate result of the unconstitutional acts described above, Plaintiff has been irreparably injured.

80. Defendants District Attorney and County are vicariously liable for the misconduct of Defendants Roberts and Ahearn.

FOURTH CAUSE OF ACTION

Violation of Constitutional Rights Under Color of State Law
Derivative Claim

81. Plaintiffs incorporate by reference and reallege each and every allegation stated in paragraphs 1-80.
82. Plaintiffs Chadwick and the infant plaintiffs suffered the loss of companionship and services of their husband and father as a result of the misconduct of the Defendants.

FIFTH CAUSE OF ACTION
Punitive Damages Against Defendant County Of Rensselaer

83. Plaintiff incorporates by reference and realleges each and every allegation stated in paragraphs 1-82.
84. The actions of Defendants Ahearn, Roberts, Doe, and the District Attorney’s office herein described were extreme and o
utrageous.
85. Based upon the past misconduct of the Rensselaer County District Attorney’s Office and failure to remedy past complaints against the office, an award of punitive damages is appropriate to punish Defendant Rensselaer County for its cruel and uncivilized conduct.

DEMAND FOR A TRIAL BY JURY

86. The Plaintiffs hereby demand a trial by jury.

PRAYER FOR RELIEF

WHEREFORE, the Plaintiffs request that this Honorable Court grant them the following relief:

A. Award compensatory damages to Plaintiff Jeremy Phillips against the defendants on the First Cause of Action, jointly and severally in the amount of $3,000,000.00;
B. Award compensatory damages to Plaintiff Jeremy Phillips against the defendants on the Second Cause of Action, jointly and severally in the amount of $3,000,000.00;
C. Award compensatory damages to Plaintiff Jeremy Phillips against the defendants on the Third Cause of Action, jointly and severally in the amount of $3,000,000.00;
D. Award compensatory damages to Plaintiff Chadwick, and the infant plaintiffs Courtney and Shelby Phillips against the defendants on the Fourth Cause of Action, jointly and severally in the amount of $3,000,000.00;
E. Award punitive damages in the Fifth Cause of Action in the amount of $40,000,000.00;
F. A monetary award for attorney’s fees and the costs of this action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988;
G. Such other and further relief as this Court deems just and proper.

Respectfully Submitted,

Warren Redlich
Attorney for Plaintiff
255 Washington Avenue Ext.
Suite 108
Albany, NY 12205
888-733-5299

Dated: October 24th, 2006
Albany, New York

3 comments to Prosecutorial Misconduct — The Complaint

  • It’s sad that the Rensselaer Co. DA office has done wrong to so many people. I first started noticing when Joe Bruno’s son, Ken, was pursuing headline cases, such as child mollestation. He was promoted to a higher-paying, quieter post in state government as increasingly, his “rock-solid” convictions began to be overturned.

    His replacement, DeAngelis continues tp pursue craven headline-grabbing cases. Her favorite target is supposed wife beaters, but anyone she thinks she can get points from is fair game.

  • If I have a clear case of provable prosecutorial misconduct where do I file a complaint, or who do I contact?

  • I don’t have an easy answer to Rhonda’s question. I suggest she contact a lawyer in the place where the problem took place. –Warren