Motions to delay Scozzari civil trial denied

April 20, 2012

A motion to delay the June 19 trial date by both plaintiff and defendants in the Scozzari versus the City of Clare lawsuit was denied by U.S. District Judge Thomas L. Ludington April 11.

The lawsuit was filed in March of 2008 by Steven Scozzari on behalf of his brother William who died after he was shot during an altercation with Clare Police on September 18, 2007 when they attempted to arrest him at the Lone Pine Motel in Clare. The officers said Scozzari threatened them with a hatchet and a knife, which prompted the shooting. Scozzari was hit by five bullets from McGraw’s gun and died at the scene.

The Clare officers were cleared of wrongdoing in Scozzari’s death by State Police investigating the shooting and former Clare County Prosecutor Norm Gage, who ruled the shooting justified because the officers had tried and were unable to subdue Scozzari with pepper spray and a Taser.

Scozzari’s brother Steven charged Clare Police Chief Dwayne Miedzianowski and Clare Police Officer Jeremy McGraw with “excessive force, deliberate indifference to Scozzari’s medical issues immediately after the shooting, assault and battery, gross negligence, municipal liability, conspiracy to violate Scozzari’s civil rights and discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In January, the U.S. Court of Appeals denied a request made in November, 2009 by Miedzianowski and McGraw for immunity against the claims, although Judge Ludington ruled Scozzari failed to show that the officers agreed to violate William Scozzari’s rights.

According to court documents, the attorney representing Steven Scozzari (representing the estate of William Scozzari), had asked for a continuance of the June 19 trial date because of a conflict with another case and because of a commitment to care for grandchildren at that time.

Judge Ludington denied the request saying, “Plaintiff’s counsel’s scheduling conflict …does not provide a basis for the Court to relieve him of his professional responsibilities…”

In responding to the plaintiff motion, the attorney representing the defendants Clare Police Chief Dwayne Miedzianowski and Officer Jeremy McGraw had requested the trial date be continued indefinitely until the recently reopened criminal investigation by the Michigan State Police is completed.

The MSP is now investigating the claim, unearthed by the Clare Sentinel in February, that two witnesses, who were never interviewed in the investigation, have said in sworn statements that William Scozzari was unarmed when he was shot and that the hatchet was “planted” near his body.

Another witness who was interviewed during the investigation said in a letter to the editor after the claim was made that William Scozzari was wielding the weapons when the shooting happened.

Judge Ludington ruled that the trial date would not be continued because, “Defendants do not explain how they would be prejudiced if this civil trail commenced prior to the conclusion of the criminal investigation, nor do they offer any legal support for their request. Defendants also do not address how they would wish to proceed in the event the prosecutor elects to bring criminal charges against them.”

Ludington concluded, “At this juncture, it is appropriate to respect the trial date, as the case was filed over four years ago.”

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