Tioga County denies allegations in response to Cal Harris lawsuit

Cal Harris is surrounded by his defense team as he speaks to the media after Judge Richard Mott declared him not guilty of the murder of his estranged wife Michele back in 2016.

SYRACUSE — Tioga County has responded to the malicious prosecution lawsuit filed by Cal Harris back in 2017, saying all four of his trials for the murder of his estranged wife were properly handled and pursued by law enforcement and the district attorney’s office.

Harris was tried four separate times for the disappearance and suspected murder of his ex-wife, Michele, who went missing on Sept. 11, 2001.

The first two resulted in guilty verdicts by Tioga County juries. Following his first trial in 2007, newly discovered evidence forced a judge to reverse the conviction.

The second trial would send Harris to prison for 25 years to life, but an appeals court ordered a third trial after he served more than 3 1/2 years in prison.

The third trial, which was held in Schoharie, New York, ended in a mistrial. In the fourth and final trial, Harris was acquitted by Judge Richard Mott in a bench trial also held in Schoharie.

Following the final trial, which ended in May of 2016, Harris promised to file a lawsuit for malicious prosecution and he would follow through in August of 2017.

In the 26-page complaint filed, Harris stated that he was “targeted, hunted and pursued. (He) was incarcerated for more than three-and-a-half years, removed from his four small children, demonized by scathing widespread local and national media coverage that caused him to be reviled in his close-knit upstate community, suffered the loss (of) all of his businesses and associated enterprises, and, even after his acquittal, continues to be labeled a murderer as a result of public statements made by the district attorney and law enforcement throughout the 15-year history of the case.”

Specifically, the entities and individuals named in the lawsuit are Tioga County, the Tioga County District Attorney’s office, former Tioga County District Attorney Gerald Keene, witness Barbara Thayer, New York State Police investigators Steven Andersen, Susan Mulvey and “Lester,” and several unnamed employees of Tioga County and the state police.

Harris is seeking unspecified damages in the complaint.

Tioga County responded on Friday, Sept. 6 with a 23-page denial of the charges in Harris’ lawsuit.

“Answering defendants deny the characterizations of the prosecution by these Answering Defendants as ‘targeted, hunted or pursued,” attorneys for Tioga County said in court documents.

Attorneys for Tioga County also said they are not responsible for “any media coverage or the characterizations stated therein and in any event deny any statements by the Answering Defendants were as characterized and all such statements made in good faith belief in the truth and veracity of such statements.”

Also in Friday’s court filing, Tioga County’s attorneys said the “evidence reasonably led to the determination of probable cause and Grand Jury indictment of Calvin Harris for that murder as well as two jury convictions after trial for said murder and one hung jury.”

The response from Tioga County also strongly denied that Harris had been “framed.”

“The Answering Defendants deny the allegation and characterizations that Cal Harris was ‘framed’ or that a ‘tale’ was created that Cal Harris was the murderer, and state the Grand Jury, two jury trials, and a majority of a third jury believed there was sufficient evidence to believe Cal Harris was the murderer of Michele Harris.”

Tioga County also denied any “tampering or destruction of evidence by the District Attorney,” stating that any suggestion of that is “scandalous, without basis, misleading and should be stricken from the Complaint.”

Tioga County is asking the court to dismiss the complaint. If that doesn’t happen, they are asking for a jury trial to be ordered to cover all issues in the lawsuit.

Pat McDonald can be reached at (570) 888-9643 ext. 228 or editor@morning-times.com. Follow Managing Editor Pat McDonald on Twitter @PatMcDonaldMT.

Load comments