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SLUYS v. GRIBETZ

January 31, 1994

PETER W. SLUYS, and ARTHUR R. ALDRICH, Plaintiffs,
v.
KENNETH GRIBETZ, AS DISTRICT ATTORNEY OF THE COUNTY OF ROCKLAND, and KENNETH GRIBETZ, PERSONALLY, PETER MODAFFERI, JOHN T. GRANT and SIX OTHER UNKNOWN CONSPIRATORS, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHARLES L. BRIEANT

 Brieant, J.

 This civil rights action was filed pro se on September 24, 1993, by plaintiff Peter W. Sluys. Arthur R. Aldrich was permitted to become an additional plaintiff by order dated November 16, 1993.

 The defendants are the Hon. Kenneth Gribetz individually, and as District Attorney of the County of Rockland, State of New York, in this District; Peter Modafferi, individually, and as a criminal investigator employed in the office of Mr. Gribetz; and John T. Grant, the County Executive of the County of Rockland through December 31, 1993.

 By order issued November 17, 1993, by the Court on its own motion, and returnable December 1, 1993, the parties were, "invited to show cause why this action should not be dismissed by this Court as moot by reason of intervening events". By motion dated November 15, 1993, defendant Grant moved pursuant to Rule 12(c) F.R.Civ.P. for judgment on the pleadings. This motion was fully submitted for decision as of December 8, 1993 following a dispute because plaintiff was willing to discontinue against Mr. Grant "without prejudice", and counsel for Mr. Grant demanded a dismissal "with prejudice". The "six other unknown conspirators" mentioned in the caption of the case remain unknown, and there is no persuasive evidence that any such exist.

 The Plaintiffs are editors and/or publishers affiliated with Community Media, Inc., which owns three local newspapers known as Our Town, The Clarkstown Courier, and The Rockland Independent, which papers circulate in the County of Rockland. Mr. Sluys is a former member of the Bar. By his complaint filed February 24, 1988, plaintiff alleged that defendants Gribetz and Modafferi, acting under color of state law because of their official positions, caused him to be invited to the Office of the District Attorney for an interview on August 2, 1993. At this interview according to plaintiff, Sluys (P 21 et seq. of Complaint) was told by defendant Modafferi that he was, "going to jail unless you turn over on Knight (another editor for Community Media, Inc.) and Aldrich"; that he was in "deep shit", and that as a "predicate felon" plaintiff would go to jail for quite some time unless he immediately confessed to taking a bribe from Orange & Rockland Utilities. *fn1" Plaintiff Sluys alleges (P 27) that he was "asked to wear a wire and meet with Linda Winikow (then an executive with Orange & Rockland Utilities)", and to tell Winikow on the wire that, "I know you have been bribing us", or alternatively, "I know we have been blackmailing you." Plaintiff refused to do either.

 The Complaint continues, alleging further activities said to be in violation of the civil rights of the plaintiffs, or the First Amendment Rights of Community Media, Inc. Before proceeding further with the Complaint, however, some additional background is necessary.

 Ms. Linda Winikow, not a party to this action, formerly served as a Democratic Member of the New York State Senate representing parts of the Counties of Rockland and Westchester. Thereafter, she accepted full time employment with Orange & Rockland Utilities, a regulated public utility which provides electric and gas service in parts of Rockland County. Thereafter, and at all relevant times until her suspension with pay on August 17, 1993, Ms. Winikow served Orange & Rockland Utilities as Vice President for Corporate Policy and External Affairs.

 A contested primary in the Democratic party developed in 1993 between defendant John T. Grant and one Samuel Colman, a member of the New York State Assembly and not a party to this action. Mr. Colman's candidacy was supported by Ms. Winikow and also by these plaintiffs and their publications. Mr. Gribetz, it is alleged, was partial to the candidacy of Mr. Grant. Mr. Grant was the victor in the primary by a narrow margin and, as is so often the case following such internecine strife in a political party, he was defeated at the general election by the Republican candidate and departed the Office of County Executive on December 31, 1993.

 On the day following the suspension with pay of Ms. Winikow as Vice President for Corporate Policy and External Affairs of Orange & Rockland Utilities, District Attorney Gribetz announced (Complaint, P 42) that his investigation concerning the financial affairs of Orange & Rockland Utilities,

 
"has expanded into allegations of commercial bribery with respect to the awarding of a $ 41,000 per annum contract between Orange & Rockland Utilities and Community Media, Inc.

 Gribetz stated that,

 
"media contracts were awarded from the Corporate Communications Department at Orange & Rockland Utilities, which was directed by Linda Winikow, Vice President for Corporate Policy and External Affairs until her suspension with pay on August 13, 1993."

 Gribetz stated that,

 
"Our Town had published a series of articles which were highly critical of Jim Smith, the C.E.O. of Orange & Rockland Utilities and Vice President Linda Winikow. The articles were critical of their ...

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