By Jessica Dye
NEW YORK, Jan 10 (Reuters) - A dentist acquitted of Medicaid
fraud cannot pursue a defamation claim against prosecutors whom
he claimed falsified information in a press release announcing
his indictment, a Brooklyn federal judge ruled Thursday.
Brooklyn dentist Leonard Morse was ultimately acquitted of
the fraud in 2007. He then sued current and former members of
the New York attorney general's office over the indictment and
the press release, which announced he had been charged in a
"million dollar Medicaid fraud."
In a ruling from the bench, Chief U.S. District Judge Carol
Amon said Morse had not shown the press release was false, a
necessary element of a defamation claim, as well as two other
claims Morse brought in connection with the release.
"A showing of falsity is critical for these claims," Amon
said in granting the attorney general office's motion to dismiss
Morse was indicted for Medicaid fraud in 2006 by the New
York attorney general's office. Several days after the
indictment, the AG's office issued a press release trumpeting
his indictment. In 2007, Morse was acquitted of the charges
following a bench trial in Kings County Supreme Court.
Morse filed a civil lawsuit against former AG Eliot Spitzer,
special assistant attorney general John Fusto, special senior
investigator Jose Castillo and senior special auditor
investigator Robert Flynn. The lawsuit alleged a range of civil
rights violations, including malicious prosecution and
deprivation of the right to a fair trial, as well as defamation.
Morse claimed the release stemmed from Spitzer's attempt to
prove he was tough on Medicaid fraud during his campaign for New
York governor, according to his civil complaint.
Morse said in the lawsuit the release created an avalanche
of negative press, forcing him to shutter his dentist practice.
Since the lawsuit was filed, Morse's claims have been pared
back in a series of rulings by Amon and Magistrate Judge Robert
After Thursday's ruling, the only remaining claim is for
deprivation of the right to a fair trial, which is proceeding
against Fusto and Castillo. That claim accuses them of trumping
up fake patient billing records to make it appear that Morse had
billed Medicaid repeatedly for the same procedures.
An attorney for Morse, Jon Norinsberg, said he was
disappointed by Amon's ruling to dismiss the claims related to
the press release. Nevertheless, he said that Morse looked
forward to proving the remaining claim at trial.
A spokeswoman for the attorney general's office declined to
A trial is scheduled to begin in Brooklyn federal court on
The case is Morse v. Spitzer, U.S. District Court for the
Eastern District of New York, No. 07-4793.
For Morse: Jon Norinsberg.
For the attorney general: Seth Farber
(This story has been corrected. A prior version
misclassified defamation as a civil rights violation.)