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Suit on Denial of Parenting Civil Rights

Date: Sun, 20 Nov 2005 22:31:14 -0500 (Eastern Standard Time)
From: "Cecile" <gemni@sover.net>
Subject: Ithaca/NY - Couple sues DA/Violated Constitutional Rights (Federal Court)

10/21/2005 - Ithaca/NY - Couple sues DA/Violated Constitutional Rights
(Federal Court) http://www.theithacajournal.com/apps/pbcs

 Article published Oct 21, 2005 DA candidates trade charges of professional misconduct Wilkinson calls foul play By ANDREW TUTINO Journal Staff ITHACA - District Attorney George Dentes and challenger Gwen Wilkinson traded attacks on Thursday regarding their conduct on two separate cases they were involved in as officers of the county. In an opinion column in Wednesday's Ithaca Journal, Dentes wrote that “knowingly prosecuting on insufficient evidence is a serious abuse of power ” referring to a Family Court case Wilkinson worked on while an attorney at the county's Department of Social Services. In the case, a daughter, Erica Sutton, had alleged that she was sexually abused by her father, Doug. It was later determined that the allegations
were false. Doug Sutton and his wife, Anne Sutton, have sued the county and DSS for $10 million in a civil case brought forward in the U.S. Federal District Court in Syracuse. The suit alleges that the Suttons' constitutional rights to
raise their daughter were violated, misleading statements were filed in the case, and county authorities failed to investigate the daughter's allegations fairly before taking custody of the girl in 2002. The civil case is pending. Dentes wrote in the column that Wilkinson said during a deposition for the civil case that she “still stated her belief that the father was guilty of abuse.” “Asked why, she could only say that she interviewed the child and found her believable. That is very disturbing. When a government attorney starts thinking that she has superhuman ability to see the truth despite all contrary facts, the potential for abuse of power is great,” Dentes wrote. Wilkinson: Claims false Wilkinson shot back on Thursday saying Dentes' comments were false. Wilkinson said she is not a defendant in the lawsuit and there are no allegations in the lawsuit that she acted improperly in the performance of her duties. Wilkinson also said she was assigned the case three months after the child was put in foster care, and while handling the case she was
representing the position of the DSS, not her own. “In sum, my opponent's allegations are blatantly false,” Wilkinson said.
“This is not spin; these are lies. I cannot talk about the evidence of the case because it is against the law to do so.” Dentes said Wilkinson's conduct in the case is an issue. Dentes: Family suffered “She is totally passing the ball and trying to distance herself from a case she is responsible for,” Dentes said. “She may not have started it, but when she took it over, she was aware of the evidence. The family has suffered a huge emotional and financial loss as a result of the case.” At a press conference Wilkinson called to respond to Dentes' column, she said Dentes himself had engaged in improper conduct as DA. Wilkinson attacked Dentes and his office for its conduct in a drug case in the Town of Ulysses last year, the People of the State of New York vs. Peter B. Wright. During a court appearance on April 9, 2004, Dentes made comments during the court proceeding referring to Wright's lawyer, William P. Sullivan Jr., who later sought an order to have Dentes and the DA's office disqualified from the case based on the comments. Sullivan was successful. During the April 2004 appearance, Dentes said: “It is antics and grandstanding such as this that has led me to inform Mr. Sullivan before coming in here today that as long as he is the attorney in the case, we will not discuss any disposition whatsoever in this case, other than one that puts this man in state prison for as long as we can, because he disserves the justice system, disserves his clients, and he abuses everything he touches,” according to a copy of Judge John Rowley's ruling barring the DA's office from working on the case. The copy of the ruling was provided to the media by Wilkinson. Rowley ruled last year to have a special prosecutor handle Wright's case because he felt Dentes' statements attempted to violate attorney-client privilege guidelines. Wilkinson said Dentes' behavior in the case was improper. She said she has never used the power of any office she has held to “overstep the ethics of my profession, or deliberately mislead the public.” “This is a most unusual censure of a district attorney,” Wilkinson said. “It
is a finding that he is not fit to do his job on the case before the court. It is a very serious finding of misconduct and raised serious doubts as to my opponent's fitness to serve.” Wilkinson went on to say the November election will give voters a chance to “clean up the mess” and restore respect to the DA's office. Dentes said Wilkinson's charges regarding the Wright case were false. “I think it is a lot to do about nothing,” Dentes said. “If you can't get a little passionate about your job, you have no right being a prosecutor. That is the only time in my 16-year career as DA a judge has chastised me in any way. It is the one and only time a judge took me to task. I didn't agree, but I couldn't appeal the ruling.” Dentes added he ran against Rowley for County Judge five years ago. “We are also political adversaries,” Dentes said. Defending his conduct in the case, Dentes said he was doing his job as DA. “I think it is the DA's duty to speak out against abuses in the criminal justice system,” Dentes said. “I was speaking out toward an attorney who I thought was abusing the system. I will speak out against attorneys who try to intimidate town justices as that attorney was.”

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