Putnam County DA Sues Local Sheriff For Defamation
CARMEL, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) – A prosecutor who is the son of TV’s Judge Judy sued the local sheriff for $5 million Wednesday for saying that the prosecutor had interfered in a child rape case.
Putnam County District Attorney Adam Levy said county Sheriff Donald Smith “maliciously attempted to destroy” his reputation.
The sheriff denied defaming Levy. He also said the timing of the lawsuit was “blatantly political” and implied it was intended to damage his re-election campaign.
Levy filed the lawsuit in county court in suburban New York, naming Smith only as an individual, not as a county employee.
The lawsuit stems from a child rape case against Alexandru Hossu, Levy’s former personal trainer. In the court papers, Levy calls him “a close personal friend” and a frequent houseguest of his family in 2011 and 2012.
In March, Levy said he had recused himself from the rape case as soon as he learned that Hossu was under investigation.
But the sheriff alleged that Levy had “ongoing and improper involvement” in the case. He said Levy was “apparently trying to influence and affect the investigation.”
Levy has said he’s acted properly. He said the sheriff’s allegations are unfounded.
The sheriff issued a news release in March that said, “Mr. Levy’s comments and actions would seem to suggest that, if he could have his own way, Mr. Hossu would never have been brought to justice for his crime and Mr. Levy’s relationship with him would never have been brought to the light of public scrutiny.”
The two officials also battled over Hossu’s address – the sheriff gave out the district attorney’s address, but the lawsuit says Smith knew Hossu did not live there at the time.
Hossu, a 35-year-old immigrant from Romania, faces four charges of first-degree rape. He is accused of raping a 12-year-old girl on two occasions on the same day in October, 2010, according to Putnam County Sheriff’s Capt. William McNamara.
He has pleaded not guilty and defense lawyers have moved to dismiss the case. In addition to the district attorney’s office, Putnam County judges have recused themselves, so the case is being handled by a judge and prosecutors in neighboring Westchester County.
Both Levy and Smith are Republicans. The lawsuit catalogues differences between their offices on issues including the videotaping of suspects’ interviews. It says “Smith’s outward hostility” toward Levy has intensified since 2011.
Smith, who is running for re-election in November, said the timing of the lawsuit is “blatantly political and intended to try to influence the outcome of an election.”
Levy’s mother, Judy Sheindlin, is a retired Family Court judge and the star of “Judge Judy.” She issued a statement Wednesday calling her son “principled, honorable and dedicated.”
“His moral compass is dead center,” she added. “When someone attacks his character professionally or personally they best be prepared to back it up – shut up – or pay up.”
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