It's been more than five years since Harold Griffin and former Frankfort village police Chief Steven Conley clashed on Election Night in 2008.
Since then, allegations of aggressive antics mounted against Conley until he retired from the force in summer 2010. But the fallout of that first altercation is catching up with Conley, with a civil trial set to begin sometime later this year.
Memories of the night Conley reportedly held Griffin while he was attacked by Frankfort Mayor Frank Moracco and two others might no longer be fresh in the public's mind, but the potential consequences of what happened are as relevant today as they were back then, Griffin's attorney said this week.
"It's very important for all municipality police agencies, towns and village boards and mayors to know that the police are there to protect people, and when they do things to violate people's rights, there are financial consequences that can be levied," said Griffin's attorney, Mark Wolber. "The hope is that if this type of conduct is occurring, or has occurred, that these claims will cause that behavior to change."
David Walsh IV, the attorney for Conley and Moracco, could not be reached for comment.
Later this year, six jurors in state Supreme Court are expected to hear civil claims of assault, battery, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution against Conley, Moracco, the village's public works Superintendent Ronald Vivacqua and the mayor's son-in-law Jeffrey Viola.
Justice Norman Siegel is scheduled to preside over the trial in Herkimer, but no date has been set.
All it would take is five of those six jurors to decide whether any of these individuals have any liability for violating Griffin's constitutional rights, and if Griffin then should be awarded damages.
Griffin was charged with resisting arrest and assaulting Moracco, Vivacqua and Viola during the Election Night incident, but in 2009 a judge found Griffin not guilty of all charges. Then in 2010, prosecutors dismissed harassment charges against Griffin for another alleged confrontation with Conley at a Stewart's Shops store.
Once the first trial is resolved this year, Conley is expected to then face a second trial for the later Stewart's Shops incident, Wolber said. But for now, Wolber said, Griffin is anxiously awaiting the first opportunity he has to achieve justice for what he endured.
"It's a pretty embarrassing thing for somebody like Harold Griffin to be arrested, because whenever someone is arrested it's only human nature for people to think the person is guilty," Wolber said. "So Harold has had the uncertainty and stress of having this hanging over his head for a while, not sure what is going to happen at trial."
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