APny 11/06 0047 Court-Moonies By ROBERT BELLAFIORE Associated Press Writer ALBANY, N.Y. (A

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APny 11/06 0047 Court-Moonies By ROBERT BELLAFIORE Associated Press Writer ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- A private investigator who specialized in deprogramming religious cultists has had his $24,000 libel award against the New York State Police upheld by a state appeals court. State Police arrested Galen Kelly after he had a fight with members of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church, also known as "moonies." Kelly had been hired by the parents of Anthony Colombrito, then 27, of Ellenville, N.Y., who had joined the church. The mid-level Appellate Division of state Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Albany Thursday that State Police, after arresting Kelly in 1979, ignored his version of the story and issued a news release that was false, defamatory and maliciously compiled. The ruling upholds a decision by the state Court of Claims. The news release detailed charges of assault, kidnapping and weapons charges against Kelly, a well-known Ulster County investigator. The release said Kelly, during a confrontation at his farmhouse, pistol whipped the leader of a Unification Church group that had been looking for Colombrito. Grand juries in Ulster County and New Jersey, where charges were brought "at the instigation" of New York State Police, refused to indict Kelly, the appeals court said in its 5-0 decision. Kelly, who had been hired by Colombrito's parents, in response accused State Police of trumping up charges against him because they disapproved of his efforts to deprogram people who had joined such religious cults as the Unification Church, the Appellate Division said. Kelly has since quit deprogramming and is currently a private investigator out of New York City, said his lawyer, John DeGraff. The Appellate Court, which earlier in the case threw out State Police's motion to have the case summarily dismissed, agreed with Kelly in part. "The release parrots the church members' account of the incident and a senior investigator of the State Police, at trial, conceded that he ignored the statements of (Kelly) and his assistant and used the Church members' statements for the basis of his felony complaint," wrote Appellate Division Justice Robert Main. Kelly had sought damages from the State Police for false arrest, malicious prosecution and libel, but a Court of Claims judge granted him the libel award only. The Appellate Division said there was "clear and convincing evidence" that the State Police news release was "false and issued with malice." Because Kelly was considered a public figure, he had to prove that State Police acted maliciously. Furthermore, State Police showed "continuing animus" for Kelly by pursuing charges in New Jersey and later in Ulster County Family Court after the original jury found no basis for an indictment, the court said. "The Court of Claims found ... that the police officer's testimony was far from objective and examination of the record finds broad support for that conclusion," Main said. "The case turned in large part upon the credibility of the witnesses." "The release, in readily understandable terms, accuses (Kelly) of shameful, abhorrent and brutal behavior," the judge said. In the news release, State Police said Kelly "assaulted the leader of the (church) group" and later pistol whipped him with a semi-automatic pistol, according to the court. However, medical examinations of both men found that the group leader, Peter Schepmoes, suffered only minor bruises while Kelly had a "sizable gash on his head and a concussion," the court said.

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