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