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ROBESON v. FANELLI

March 21, 1950

ROBESON et al.
v.
FANELLI et al.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CONGER

This action was instituted by 28 plaintiffs against 16 defendants for damages to the civil rights of plaintiffs under the Federal Civil Rights Statutes. Title 8 U.S.C.A. §§ 41, 43, 47 and 48, and Title 28 of the U.S.C.A. § 1343. Included in the prayer for relief are claims for damages for deprivation of civil rights and claims for damages for assault, personal injuries and property damage.

There are a number of separate claims in the complaint. Not all of the plaintiffs are in each claim, nor are all of the defendants sued in each claim.

 Plaintiffs' version of the nature of this action is set forth in their brief at page 2 as follows:

 'The gravamen of the action is that various officials of the County of Westchester, together with police officials of the State of New York and various private individuals and groups conspired and did other unlawful acts together, to interfere with the conducting of a peaceful assembly in which plaintiffs and others were involved in and about the City of Peekskill on August 27, 1949 and September 4, 1949 and under the color and guise of law, unlawfully interfered with plaintiffs' rights, to their serious and substantial injury.'

 Plaintiffs allege a continuing conspiracy on the part of the defendants to interfere with and invade the civil rights of the plaintiffs at the times and places set forth in the complaint.

 Among the defendants are five officials of Westchester County, the District Attorney, the Assistant District Attorney, the Sheriff, the County Clerk and the County Executive, the Superintendent of the State Police, the Captain and First Sergeant of Troop K of the State Police, several veterans' organizations and other individuals, some of whom are officers of veterans' organizations.

 The incidents which gave rise to this action occurred in and around Peekskill, Westchester County, New York on August 24, and September 4, 1949. Great publicity was given to the episodes which occurred on those two Sundays. Complaint was made to the Governor of the State of New York who issued a statement on September 14, 1949. Governor Dewey instructed the District Attorney of Westchester County to investigate this whole matter. I quote from the Governor's statement:

 'There are other serious aspects to the situation, however.

 'At my conference today I have instructed the District Attorney of Westchester County, in addition to completing the investigation of the incidents of August 27th, to make a complete, unlimited and exhaustive grand jury investigation of all the incidents which occurred, including the following:

 'All of the disorders which broke out after the meeting of September 4, and whether these disorders were the result of organized planning on the part of the individuals or group.

 'Whether the meeting was initiated and sponsored for the purpose of deliberately inciting disorder and a breach of the peace and whether it was part of the Communist strategy to foment racial and religious hatreds.

 'Whether the Communist-led guard forces are a quasi-military force. Storm troopers or private militia, whether in white sheets, brown shirts, or military clothing, will not be tolerated in New York. We have abolished the Bund and the Ku Klux Klan and we will not permit similar Communist organizations to exist.'

 I am informed by the affidavits of the District Attorney that he has empanelled a special Grand Jury which began its investigation on October 3, 1949 and that it has examined a great number of witnesses; that it is now in the midst of its investigation and is proceeding diligently; that it will not complete its work until the end of April.

 The District Attorney and the County officials of Westchester County, the State Police officials and other defendants have moved to stay any and all proceedings in this action until April 25th at which time the Grand Jury will have completed its labor; they also move to extend their time to answer or ...


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