A Superior Court judge tossed out the state’s argument to dismiss Atlantic City Councilman Marty Small’s malicious-prosecution suit, ruling that Small met the initial standard for making a claim.
Attorneys for Small and the state Attorney General’s Office will now spend between six and 12 months taking depositions and trading documents, Small’s attorney Arthur J. Murray said after the Friday afternoon.
Murray said he anticipates a trial. He said they consider it to be a significant case, potentially resulting in a verdict “in the high six figures into seven figures.”
“I was done wrong,” Small said after the hearing, saying prosecutors had “zero evidence.”
“Just because you’re the law doesn’t mean you can ruin people’s lives by putting charges on them,” Small said. “My family and I have suffered tremendously, and we’re looking forward to getting in front of a jury.”
At issue is Small’s 2011 suit against the state following his acquittal on voter fraud charges earlier in the year.
Small, 38, has claimed state investigators manipulated witnesses, disregarding their credibility, in order to make their case against him as revenge for an acquittal in 2006 voter-fraud trial.
At the hearing in front of Superior Court Judge Joseph E. Kane, Deputy Attorney General Susan Scott argued that the state detectives, investigators and prosecutors named in Small’s suit were immune from the suit because they were investigating what they believed was a crime.
Scott argued they are immune, even if they coerced false testimony out of witness Ronald Harris. Small’s suit has alleged Harris was under the influence of alcohol and falling asleep when investigators interviewed him.
Furthermore, she argued the filings did not establish there was fraud, malice or willful misconduct.
Murray argued that the complaint alleged a host of violations of Small’s rights that included elements of malicious prosecution.
Furthermore, Small was entitled at this early stage in the case to have the benefit of the doubt while he and his team gathered more evidence.
Murray also described Eddie Colon, the state’s star witness, as a person motivated to unearth wrongdoing to save himself from prosecution.
Colon also provided evidence of potential wrongdoing by Mayor Lorenzo Langford and fellow candidate David Tayoun, Murray said. But Operation A.C.E. — Atlantic City Election — investigated and prosecuted only Small.
“Clearly the court can draw an inference that the prosecutors targeted Marty Small,” Murray said.
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