Syaed Ali Sues
Nine months after he was detained and interrogated, and his possessions confiscated, Ali seeks retribution
On Tuesday, June 30, almost nine months after local law enforcement searched his home and seized bags full of his possessions, then detained and questioned him without access to an attorney, Syaed Ali has finally filed a lawsuit against the City of Buffalo, Buffalo Police Detective Anna Mydlarz, and Michael McCartney, a computer specialist for the New York State Attorney General’s Office.
The suit was filed in New York State Supreme Court by Ali’s new attorney, David G. Jay.
The general outline of the story is familiar to those who read this paper regularly: On November 7, 2008, just three days after the general election, Mydlarz and McCartney led a crew of Buffalo police officers in executing a search warrant signed by Buffalo City Court Judge Craig Hannah. The warrant, which was issued in response to testimony from a source who remains confidential, accused Ali of aggravated harassment. The warrant empowered police to seize his computers and related equipment and materials—the instruments of the alleged crime.
“Of course, no crime had been committed,” Jay told Artvoice on Wednesday afternoon, “and the information upon which they got that warrant we are not privy too.” Jay assumes the defendants in the suit will never reveal the source of that testimony. “But whoever that little bird was, he was crosseyed and deaf and stupid, and apparently had some ax to grind against Mr. Ali.”
Hannah is a close friend and political ally of Mayor Byron Brown, who appointed Hannah to his seat just days after taking office.
Ali is apparently accused of anonymously sending emails to media outlets last summer, accusing Brown of various far-fetched and outrageous behaviors, and demanding his resignation. But no charges have been filed against Ali in the nine months since he was detained, and he was never placed under arrest that day.
Police took far more of Ali’s possessions than the warrant allowed, according to Ali: checkbooks, credit cards, business-related documents, toothbrushes, deodorant, cash…the whole list of items Ali claims police took from him his available at AV Daily at Artvoice.com. A few items were returned in April, but most—including his computer equipment and financial instruments—remain in police custody.
According to Ali, he was taken from his house, put in a police car, and taken to the downtown office of the Attorney General. (“They had no right to do that at all,” said Jay.) There he was interrogated for seven hours. Ali said Mydlarz and McCarthy pressed him to admit that he was working on behalf of the mayor’s political rivals. He refused to do that. He was eventually brought to the Buffalo office of the FBI, where he was questioned for about 10 minutes and released. The following Monday, Ali engaged the law firm of Magavern Magavern & Grimm, which filed a notice of claim in December. Ali switched lawyers recently, after giving a deposition to City of Buffalo attorneys Tim Ball and Robert Quinn on April 8.
“The whole affair is political shenanigans, it’s political dirty tricks. It’s like Donald Segretti,” Jay said, evoking the notorious political operative for Richard Nixon. “If I was the government I’d be embarrassed. If they had any evidence of a crime, I’d think that seven months after the fact they’d have done something.”
In the first few months since AV first reported this story, Ali spoke often to the press. (He’s clammed up now, on the advice of his attorney.) And some of what he said about his IT business and his past political activity raised eyebrows. Was Ali credible? Did he write the emails about Brown?
“I respond to those questions very simply,” Jay said. “Who gives a shit? Who cares if he was the worst observer of the political scene who ever lived? And who cares if he wrote all kinds of terrible things? Well, so did Tom Paine. That’s what gadflies are for. They have an absolute right in this country—so far—under the First Amendment to say any goddamned thing they want. That doesn’t give the police license to go steal their material and take them into custody. That’s what they do in Iran. That’s why we’re different in this country. Maybe.”
Jay added that he was not conceding that his client did what he was accused of doing.
Buffalo Police Department spokesman Mike DeGeorge said he would not comment on the suit, but said that the investigation into Ali’s activities continues. Peter Cutler, spokesman for Mayor Byron Brown, also said he’d provide no comment on ongoing litigation—though he told a reporter from Channel 2 News that these sorts of lawsuits are common.
The defendants have 20 days to answer the suit.
—geoff kellyblog comments powered by Disqus
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