LAKE RONKONKOMA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A Long Island man who spent nearly 18 years in prison before his conviction was overturned by new DNA evidence has filed state and federal lawsuits against the police and prosecutors who built the case against him.
John Grega, who lives in Lake Ronkonkoma, was wrongfully convicted of killing his wife in a Vermont condominium in 1994 while they were on vacation with their son.
Grega’s attorneys filed the lawsuits in July, claiming his 1995 conviction was based on flawed police work and unconstitutional actions by investigators.
“Mr. Grega’s wrongful conviction was no accident, but rather the result of unconstitutional and tortious acts by the defendants to this lawsuit, as well as policies, customs, and practices that were deliberately indifferent to Mr. Grega’s civil rights,” the federal lawsuit said.
A number of the original investigators, the Windham County State’s attorney and the town of Dover were named in the federal lawsuit. The state lawsuit was filed against the state of Vermont.
Grega’s 31-year-old wife, Christine, was found raped and murdered in a bathtub in the Dover condo.
It was a crime Grega always said he didn’t commit. He claimed he was at a playground with his son at the time of the murder, but he made conflicting statements. The former NASA contractor was convicted in 1995 of aggravated murder, which carries an automatic sentence of life without parole.
His conviction was overturned after recently tested DNA from his wife’s body was found not to have come from him, but from an unknown man. He was released from prison in August of 2012.
After the original conviction was overturned, a judge told prosecutors they were free to re-file the case if the evidence warranted it.
Grega’s lead attorney, Ian Carleton, referred questions about the case to the two complaints filed last month in Vermont federal court and in Vermont Superior Court-Civil Division in Montpelier.
Former Windham County State’s Attorney Dan Davis said in an email Tuesday he hadn’t seen the lawsuit, but he would review it with the Vermont Attorney General’s office.
“I will add that Mr. Grega’s jury returned the correct verdict,” Davis said.
The lawsuits claimed investigators and prosecutors botched the original investigation, as well as a second investigation that began after the DNA exoneration. The suit claimed they didn’t properly handle evidence or conduct a proper investigation after the exoneration.
The state suit alleges Grega suffers from post-traumatic stress and acute anxiety disorder “due to his many years of unjustified imprisonment and humiliation.” He sleeps badly, has nightmares and panic attacks and constantly worries “about police officers breaking down his door and arresting him again.”
The lawsuits did not seek specific damages.
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