By Jessica Dye
NEW YORK, Feb 21 (Reuters) - A man who spent nearly 15 years
in prison for kidnapping before his indictment was dismissed has
filed a $43 million lawsuit against New York City and Manhattan
Giuseppe D'Alessandro said in the lawsuit, filed Thursday in
Brooklyn federal court, that prosecutors failed to alert the
court to a case that held that prosecutors' unjustified delay in
producing grand jury minutes must be counted against the time
they have to bring a case to trial.
If prosecutors had made the court aware of the 1990 New York
Court of Appeals decision in People v. McKenna, D'Alessandro
said he would not have spent years in prison, according to the
"Had the court been alerted to McKenna, it would have
granted the plaintiff's speedy trial motion and dismissed the
indictment in 1990," the complaint said.
The complaint names Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance,
as well as the assistant district attorney who tried the case,
Brenda Morris. It also names unidentified members of the DA's
office and members of the New York City Police Department.
The lawsuit alleges that D'Alessandro's constitutional
rights to a fair trial and due process, among others, were
violated by prosecutors' failure to tell the court about
A spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney's office
declined to comment. The New York City Law Department said it
has yet to receive a copy of the complaint.
D'Alessandro, who managed a restaurant in Manhattan, was
charged in 1989 with second-degree kidnapping, after allegedly
holding hostage an employee suspected of stealing money. He
rejected a plea deal, and prosecutors in 1990 filed a
superseding indictment charging him with first-degree
QUESTION OF SIX MONTHS
D'Alessandro had moved to dismiss the second indictment,
arguing that prosecutors ran out of time to bring the case under
the speedy trial provisions set forth in CPL 30.30. The statute
gives prosecutors six months to be ready to try a felony case,
unless a judge allows certain time periods to be excluded.
D'Alessandro had argued prosecutors had improperly excluded
196 days of delay while he waited for them to hand over grand
jury minutes, according to the complaint
The trial judge rejected the motion, and D'Alessandro was
convicted of kidnapping and sentenced to 15 years to life. In
1996, the Appellate Division, First Department, upheld the
conviction, after D'Alessandro's appellate lawyers failed to
raise the speedy trial issue.
D'Alessandro served 14-1/2 years before being released on
parole in 2007, the complaint said. He revived his appeal, and
in 2010 the First Department reversed the conviction and
dismissed the indictment. The court found that D'Alessandro had
received ineffective counsel from lawyers who had failed to
raise whether his right to a speedy trial had been violated.
In addition to claiming his constitutional rights were
violated, Thursday's lawsuit says prosecutors and police
officers conducted a flawed investigation and that prosecutors
proceeded with the first-degree kidnapping charge as retribution
for his failure to take the plea offer.
D'Alessandro is seeking $28 million in compensatory damages
and an additional $15 million in punitive damages.
He is also pursuing a $26 million legal malpractice case
against two attorneys who represented him on appeal. Last year,
a Manhattan Supreme Court judge denied the attorneys' motion to
The case is D'Alessandro v. City of New York, U.S. District
Court for the Eastern District of New York, No. 13-930.
For D'Alessandro: Brian Gardner of Sullivan Gardner.
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