Appeal denied in suit against trooper over sex abuse case

Thursday, June 6, 2013
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— An appeals court Thursday ended a Loudonville dentist’s attempt to sue the New York State Police for malicious prosecution.

Gregory Morra was tried in Richmondville Town Court in 2008 on misdemeanor sexual abuse charges based on allegations by a teenager that he touched her while coaching her basketball team in practice.

The jury rendered a not-guilty verdict, and Morra then targeted George Bird, the lead investigator in the sexual abuse case, in a lawsuit against the state police.

In the suit filed Feb. 1, 2010, Morra’s attorneys demanded Bird’s personnel records to pursue his claim that police carelessly continued their criminal prosecution. The state, represented by the Attorney General’s Office, requested the case be dismissed altogether.

The suit contended state police “negligently failed to monitor, investigate, supervise and have appropriate checks in place in connection with this investigation.” It further alleged Bird had “past bad investigations, wrongful arrests and improper use of his position.”

Morra’s attorney in the lawsuit also alleged police “failed to properly evaluate and share with the prosecution exculpatory information which caused the continuation of the improper prosecution,” according to court documents.

The Court of Claims, which handles cases lodged against New York state and its agencies, ultimately ruled Morra’s filings didn’t provide enough detail to meet the requirements of such a claim.

“The failure to sufficiently detail the particulars of a claim is fatal,” the Court of Claims said in its November 2011 ruling.

Morra, through attorney Maureen A. Keegan, took the case to the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court for the Third Judicial Department, and that court, in a ruling issued Thursday, upheld the Court of Claims’ decision.

There has to be sufficient detail, the court ruled, in order for a claim against the state to go forward. Case law cited by the court establishes the state is not required to “ferret out or assemble information” the accuser needs to make a case.

“Failure to abide by these pleading requirements constitutes a jurisdictional defect mandating dismissal of the claim, even though this may be a harsh result,” Thursday’s decision states.

Keegan and Morra could not be reached for comment Thursday.

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