May 13, 2003
Section: Local News
Edition: Fulton Montgomery Schoharie; First
EDWARD MUNGER Jr.
ALBANY - A man acquitted of first-degree robbery in a Schoharie County Court trial last year is seeking $40 million in damages, alleging he was wrongfully prosecuted and his civil rights were violated. Schoharie County District Attorney Jim Sacket, the Cobleskill village Police Department and two of its members, Lt. Michael O'Brien and Officer Maynard Sullivan III, are named as defendants in the federal lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in behalf of Jeffrey Loucks, 44, of Cherry Valley, Otsego County. Loucks and Ryan Williams, of Cobleskill, were arrested following the July 11, 2001, shotgun robbery of the McDonald's restaurant on Main Street in Cobleskill. Williams, who was 22 at the time of the robbery, agreed to testify for the prosecution and pleaded guilty in April 2002 to a third-degree burglary charge. He was later sentenced to six months in jail and five years of probation. Loucks, who maintained his innocence, was tried before a jury, which acquitted him last May. Witnesses said a man entered the restaurant about 10:30 p.m. bearing a shotgun and wearing camouflage and a turkey-hunting hat.ä The robber forced four employees to theback office and took about $1,200 in cash.ä During the trial,it was learned that DNA matching that of Williams was found on the turkey hat, but no DNA matching Loucks was discovered. Loucks' attorney, Randall Kehoe, filed a notice of claim in state Supreme Court last summer, and last week filed a detailed complaint in U.S. District Court. On Monday, Kehoe said key evidence proving Loucks was innocent was ignored by police and the prosecution.ä At thetime of Loucks' arrest, police were aware that he had served an eight-year prison sentence for murder, Kehoe said.ä "They wentand did a knee-jerk reaction . . . instead of investigating, doing a lineup, testing for DNA, they arrested my client unlawfully and unconstitutionally," Kehoe said.ä Neither Sacketnor officials from the Cobleskill Police Department responded to messages seeking comment on Monday.ä Prior to Loucks' trial,Williams, who was nicknamed "Remington" because of his penchant for firearms, told a grand jury he had never seen the turkey hat before, Kehoe said.ä Kehoe requested the DNA tests beperformed on material found inside the turkey hat, and DNA from Williams was discovered in it. "I asked for a mistrial, I said please release my client, the DNA evidence is exculpatory," Kehoe said. In the lawsuit papers, Kehoe alleges that Loucks was not permitted to contact an attorney when arrested nor given access to a bathroom or food and water when taken to the Cobleskill police station. The complaint also alleges that Loucks was forced to pluck about two-dozen hairs from his head to give to police for evidence even though there were no hairs recovered at the robbery scene. The case is scheduled for a pretrial hearing in September.
Reach Gazette reporter Edward Munger Jr. at 234-7788 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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