BRATTLEBORO -- Attorneys for the town of Dover are asking a federal judge to dismiss it from a lawsuit filed by a man who spent nearly 18 years in prison for the murder of his wife.
John Grega, who now lives in Lake Ronkonkoma on Long Island, was released from prison in 2012 after a new test found DNA from an unknown man on evidence used to convict Grega. Grega was convicted of the 1994 murder of his wife, whose bludgeoned, sexually assaulted and strangled body was found in their Dover vacation condominium. Throughout his incarceration, Grega, now 52, maintained his innocence in the murder of his wife, Christine.
In July of this year, his attorneys filed a lawsuit against the town of Dover, former Windham County State's Attorney Dan Davis and three members of the Vermont State Police who were involved in the murder investigation.
"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," wrote Ian Carleton, Grega's lead attorney, in the lawsuit.
For its part, wrote Carleton, Dover "failed to train and supervise adequately investigators from the Dover Police Department ..."
In the motion to dismiss, attorneys from McNeil, Leddy & Sheahan, representing the town of Dover, contended Grega's attorneys have not shown that the town committed a constitutional violation.
"The claim against the Town must be dismissed as it offers no factual support to demonstrate that any action attributable to a Town police officer arose out of an alleged unconstitutional municipal policy, practice or procedure," wrote the attorneys for Dover.
In fact, they note, no town police officers are named in the lawsuit, only members of the State Police, training for whom the town can't be held responsible.
The lawsuit, wrote the town's attorneys, is "lacking in any factual allegations that would allow this Court to reasonably infer that the misconduct being alleged as against the Town is the result of anything other than the acts of one or perhaps two unidentified Town police officers."
They also wrote that the U.S. District Court fo the District of Vermont should dismiss the town from the suit because Grega's claim that the town was negligent in training its officers fails because Dover is entitled to a defense of municipal immunity.
Immunity is a legal concept developed over centuries that states a governing body can't commit a legal wrong and is generally, but not always, immune from a civil suit. In the United States, if a complainant can prove in court that a government body violated a federal law or a constitutional right, a lawsuit can proceed.
For a person to be immune from a suit, they must have been acting as a legal arm of the governing body, such as a police officer. However, individuals acting in an official role can be sued if a complainant can prove they singled out someone in an egregious manner, broke a federal law or violated that person's constitutional rights.
The town's attorneys contend Grega's attorneys have failed to state a claim that rises above precedent established insuring a governing body is protected by immunity.
Bob Audette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.