By Pamela ChergotisGOSHEN — A Town of Goshen police officer is being sued by a woman who claims the officer "engaged in a malicious abuse of process" to falsely charge her with harassment and stalking.
Laura Moritz of Monroe, who claims she was once Matthew Imperio's girlfriend, brought suit on July 9 against Imperio, a patrolman employed by the Town of Goshen Police Department, among other defendants, for scheming to bring about her arrest and prosecution. The suit says all charges were ultimately thrown out.
"The lawsuit is completely frivolous," said Imperio's lawyer, Steven C. Stern of Sokoloff Stern LLP in Carle Place, N.Y. "Anyone who can afford a filing fee can make whatever allegations they want to."
Other defendants include the Town of Goshen, the Town of Warwick and its police officer Brett M. Lukach, and two friends of Imperio, Michele Lea Biaso of Goshen and Joy Gorish of Warwick. The suit seeks a total of $3.5 million in damages, plus lawyer's fees.
The lawsuit says Biaso and Gorish collaborated with Imperio to trump up charges that led to two arrests last year, in Warwick for stalking, and in Goshen for harassment. The scheme aimed to retaliate against Moritz after she reported to the state police in January 2014 "facts that would constitute a criminal offense" by Imperio, according to the suit. The suit does not describe the offense.
Imperio and Moritz ended their relationship at that time, the suit says, and after that Imperio and Biaso became "romantically involved." They agreed to use Imperio's position as a police officer, and his access to subpoenas and "his employer's power of arrest...and prosecution," to injure Moritz, the lawsuit states.
The suit says Imperio had a "personal relationship" with Gorish, who also helped in the scheme. It says Lukach signed the criminal complaint against Moritz in collaboration with Imperio and Gorish knowing all along that the charges were false.
Stern described Biaso and Gorish as "acquaintances" of Imperio, and said he would not go further into "personal matters."
"Both women apparently felt harassed" by Moritz, said Stern. "We look forward to our day in court."
Biaso said in an emailed statement: "I was not and am not a 'lover' of Matthew Imperio. Laura Moritz is an ex of Matthew's, and she began stalking and harassing me and my children because I became friends with him, as she did with the other girl who was claimed to be a 'lover.'
"Ms. Moritz was arrested after the district attorney subpoenaed my phone records and blocked calls were made from her number several times. They were also provided with my text messages, where I asked that she leave me alone, and she harassed and threatened me more than 100 times. The case against her was dropped because the statute she was arrested under was deemed unconstitutional across the state during the time she was in court. Cases all over the state were dismissed because of this.
"This is a frivolous lawsuit and just a bitter ex-girlfriend out to hurt her ex and get revenge, as she stated in text messages to myself. This entire lawsuit is not only ridiculous, but really has nothing to do with me."
The suit says Moritz was accused of harassing Biaso and Gorish by repeatedly calling them and sending them texts and emails against their wishes. But her phone records show that she made no such calls and texts to the women, according to the suit.
The suit says a protective order brought against her by Imperio, Gorish, and the town of Warwick had the intended effect of humiliating her.
Kevin Luibrand of Latham, N.Y., is representing Moritz.
There are no charges against Moritz on file in Town of Warwick Court.
Warwick: Officer will be vindicated
Both towns named in the suit are defending themselves. Goshen Supervisor Doug Bloomfield said the town is not permitted to comment while the case is in litigation. The town's insurance company hired a lawyer to represent the town and another lawyer to represent Imperio, he said.
Warwick Supervisor Mike Sweeton said Thursday, "We're looking into the facts of the case. After an initial review, it's our belief that our officer followed procedure and will be vindicated."
He said Lukach will not be able to talk to the press because of the litigation.
Imperio is named in a separate suit brought earlier this year by a fellow Goshen officer, Richard Walls, who also accuses Imperio and another officer of retaliatory harassment. Imperio was also named in a New York State audit earlier this year that found he and another officer contrived to get pay for work they hadn't done. The Orange County District Attorney declined to press charges in that case, but the town demoted Imperio from sergeant to patrolman.
Walls' lawyer, Nathaniel Charny of Rhinebeck, said Walls' case against Imperio and others was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount and “equitable remedies.” He said Walls has filed a new notice of claim against the police department alleging he was prevented from returning to work. He has since returned to the department, Charny said.
Editor's note: The quote from Biaso was received after the print edition went to press.
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