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June 29, 2013

A variety of cases keeping judges busy at local courts

By Joe Mahoney Reporter's Notebook
The Daily Star

---- — It seems that not a month goes by without another legal development in the saga of the Pacherille family, formerly of Cooperstown. This week, a notice of claim was filed against Otsego County and the town of Otsego, contending Anthony Pacherille Sr. was the victim of “false arrest and malicious prosecution.”

The notice, which preserves Pacherille’s right to file a formal lawsuit, comes six weeks after Acting Supreme Court Judge Martin E. Smith dismissed charges of aggravated harassment brought against Pacherille and his brother, Angelo David Pacherille last November. Smith held that the scathing personal attacks posted on a web site operated by the Pacherille brothers amounted to protected free speech.

The basis for that charge had been a complaint made by Craig Lippitt, the father of Wesley Lippitt, the youth shot by Anthony Pacherille Jr. in 2010, a crime that gained national attention because of a racial slur attributed to the assailant, then 16 years old. The elder Lippitt filed the complaint after the Pacherille brothers used their site — www.coophallofshame.com — to make vile allegations against him.

In his legal papers, Pacherille’s lawyer, Frank Policelli of Utica, referred to the personal attacks on Lippitt, District Attorney John Muehl and County Judge Brian Burns as “satirical.”

The notice contended that Muehl “ordered” Senior Investigator Michael Ten Eyck of the Sheriff’s Office to get a search warrant that resulted in the seizure of three computers from the elder Pacherille’s home. The notice also contended that the arrest was in “retaliation” for the elder Pacherille escaping with a fine and no jail time for an earlier incident of harassment against Lippitt and his son.

Contacted on Friday, Muehl said, “I don’t order any officers to do anything.” He also said he had no role in the search warrant application, pointing out that the sheriff’s office was simply following up on the complaint made by Craig Lippitt.

“There was no conspiracy,” the prosecutor said. “This was investigated by the sheriff’s office like any other case is investigated.”

Anthony Pacherille Sr. has since moved from Cooperstown to the village of Herkimer. Anthony Pacherille Jr. is serving an 11-year prison term for shooting Wesley Lippitt.

The proposed six-turbine wind farm that developers want to construct in the town of Richfield suffered another legal setback this week. The state Appellate Division ruled that the Richfield Planning Board failed to send documents outlining the project to the Otsego County Planning Department in advance of a public hearing on the project.

The court also said the planning board erred by failing to follow the protocol outlined in its own land use law. The neighbors fighting the project are being represented by attorney Douglas Zamelis of Springfield.

“We are ecstatic,” said Larry Frigault, one of the organizers of Protect Richfield, a group that tried to convince the Planning Board to refuse to award a special-use permit to the project developer, Ridgeline Energy. That permit is now annulled.

There has been no indication yet from the company as to whether it will resubmit its application to erect the six 492-foot turbines. The town board, meanwhile, has yet to sign off on a community host agreement for the project.

After meeting with his client, accused killer Ganesh Ramsaran, at Chenango County Correctional Facility this week, Albany defense lawyer F. Stanton Ackerman said he is convinced that the investigation into the murder of Jennifer Ramsaran amounted to a “rush to judgement.”

Ganesh Ramsaran is accused of killing his wife last December at the couple’s home in South New Berlin, while the couple’s three children were at school. He has admitted in interview with his reporter that he had what he called a brief affair with one of his wife’s closest friends.

Ackerman said that District Attorney Joseph McBride has sent him a thicket of paperwork on the investigation. But the lawyer said he has yet to see an explanation of how Jennifer Ramsaran was killed.

“That is going to be a pivotal point in this case,” he said, suggesting it would be difficult for prosecutors to prove guilt unless they can explain how the 36-year-old mother of three was murdered.

The victim’s body was found in late February off a desolate road in the town of Pharsalia, more than two months after she disappeared. McBride has said Jennifer Ramsaran was killed in her own own home on Dec. 11, the day her husband reported her missing.

“It’s absolutely speculation to say she died on Dec. 11,” Ackerman said. He noted he met with Ganesh Ramsaran for about three hours Thursday at the jail.

He said his client remains “adamant” that he had nothing to do with her death. The defendant’s family members are trying to come up with the $1 million bail that has been set by Chenango Judge Frank Revoir.

McBride has said he will not discuss evidence in the case.

JOE MAHONEY is a staff writer for The Daily Star. Contact him at jmahoney@thedailystar.com.