By Jessica Dye
NEW YORK, Feb 12 (Reuters) - A Brooklyn jury on Tuesday
awarded a dentist $7.7 million after finding that members of the
prosecutor's office had fudged billing records to secure an
indictment for Medicaid fraud.
Leonard Morse was indicted for a what a press release called
a "million-dollar Medicaid theft" in 2006 by the attorney
Morse was acquitted following a bench trial in Kings County
Supreme Court. He then sued current and former members of the
attorney general's office, alleging that the indictment and
press release were the result of evidence deliberately falsified
to make it seem like the office was cracking down on Medicaid
The lawsuit alleged several civil rights violations,
including malicious prosecution and deprivation of the right to
a fair trial, as well as defamation.
The complaint was trimmed down in a series of rulings by
U.S. District Judge Carol Amon.
Morse proceeded to trial with a single claim for deprivation
of his right to a fair trial against former special assistant
attorney general John Fusto and special senior investigator Jose
Castillo. Fusto and Castillo are no longer employed by the
attorney general's office.
During a weeklong trial that started Feb. 4, a lawyer for
Morse argued that his client had lost his thriving dental
practice as a result of the indictment. He also argued that
patient billing records upon which the indictment had been based
were intentionally fudged by Castillo and Fusto.
Lawyers for the attorney general's office, who represented
Fusto and Castillo, denied that any fabrication had taken place.
They also argued that Fusto and Castillo had prepared the
records as part of their grand jury presentation and were
entitled to absolute immunity.
The jury disagreed, finding that the two had acted as
investigators, not prosecutors, when they assembled the records.
They also found that the billing records had been fraudulently
altered, in an attempt to influence the grand jury's decision to
The jury awarded Morse $6.7 million in compensatory damages,
and an additional $1 million in punitive damages.
Morse said he felt "vindicated" by the verdict. "I wanted to
get the truth of what happened out there," he said.
The New York attorney general's office could not be
immediately reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.
The case is Morse v. Spitzer, in the U.S. District Court for
the Eastern District of New York, No. 07-4793.
For Morse: Jon Norinsberg.
For the defendants: Seth Farber and Christopher Miller of
the New York attorney general's office.
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