Niagara Gazette

Courts

July 24, 2013

Matteo Anello lawsuit goes to trial

Niagara Gazette — BUFFALO — A civil rights lawsuit, brought against the Falls by the brother of former Mayor Vince Anello, will go to trial in U.S. District Court in Buffalo in December.

Chief District Court Judge Judge William Skretny had previously dismissed part of the suit brought by Matteo Anello. The city then asked the Second Circuit United States Court of Appeals, in New York City, to throwout the remainder.

On May 31, the Court of Appeals rejected the city's request.

In a brief, two-page ruling, a panel of three appeals court judges found that current City Council Members Robert Anderson and Sam Fruscione, along with former council member Chris Robins, did not have "qualified immunity" from Anello's claim that he was denied his First Amendment rights when he was stopped from addressing a city council meeting in Oct. 2007.

The three judge panel agreed with Skretny, who. in his original ruling, said the issue of whether Anello's free speech rights were denied was a "question of fact" best left to a jury to decide.

"In the instant case, it is a question of fact whether Anello was silenced in the limited public forum of the City Council meeting based upon his 'opinion or perspective' or for other permissible reasons,' the judges wrote. "Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to Anello, he was prevented from speaking at the city council meeting because of the council's disapproval of his perspective."

In his ruling, Skretny wrote that Anderson's decision to cut-off Anello as he spoke during the public comment portion of a council meeting "presents a question of fact as to whether Anello was impermissibly removed based on 'the opinion or perspective of the speaker'."

Skretny did, however, rule that Anello's claim of "false arrest" should be dismissed because the Falls police officer who took him into custody at the council meeting had "probable cause" to believe he had committed the crime of disorderly conduct.

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