MONTGOMERY COUNTY -- A teenager has filed the precursor to a federal lawsuit, claiming he was hit by a car driven by a Montgomery County Sheriff's investigator on July 11.
Julian Louscher, 18, is represented by John F. Harwick, an Albany attorney. The notice of claim states he was struck from behind while skateboarding on Northern Boulevard in the town of Amsterdam, and the driver of the vehicle was Montgomery County Sheriff's investigator Roberto Gracia.
Louscher previously said he was thrown across the hood of the car, shattering the windshield, and that he suffered head, shoulder, arm and other injuries. Louscher alleges that Gracia appeared to be intoxicated during the incident.
Read the notice of claim below.
The notice of claim, which names Gracia, Montgomery County, and the sheriff's office, seeks damages based on Louscher's physical injuries, which include scarring. Damages are also sought for emotional distress, the disruption of his financial plans with respect to college, and because his federal civil rights were violated by an attempted cover-up of the incident.
The legal filing alleges Gracia and sheriff's deputy Theresa Pingitore, as well as other unnamed employees of the sheriff's office, "intentionally, recklessly and negligently conspired to cover up and conceal the fact that the aforesaid hit-and-run crime had taken place."
Both Gracia and Pingitore have been criminally charged in connection with the incident. Their cases are being prosecuted by the Schenectady County District Attorney's office, with Assistant District Attorney Eamonn Neary handling them.
Read the victim’s statement below.
Gracia, 46, of 44 Academy St., Amsterdam, has been charged with felony tampering with physical evidence, as well as the misdemeanor of official misconduct. According to the charging documents against Gracia, after the accident, he tried to conceal his 2012 Ford Taurus at 58 Glen Ave. -- not his residence -- parking it in a fashion that "the damage to the aforementioned vehicle could not be easily viewed." He then made contact with an auto glass repair service and made arrangements to replace the windshield on July 13.
The official misconduct charge against Pingitore, 48, of 115 Robert Road, Amsterdam, accuses her of failing to report the accident after Gracia told her what happened.
"Two individuals sworn to uphold the law not only broke the law but engaged in conduct designed to thwart an investigation and impede justice," said Harwick, Louscher's attorney.
The notice of claim makes the argument that Montgomery County and its sheriff's office should be held liable for the acts and omissions of its employees and that it failed to adequately hire, train and supervise sheriff's deputies.
Harwick said it was too early in the process to estimate the extent of the financial damages sought, though lawyers' fees will be included. He said his law firm will now wait to see whether a grand jury indicts Gracia on the felony tampering with evidence charge, which he said will need to occur within six months of when he was arrested. If that happens, the federal lawsuit will likely go forward.
Read the charges below.
"We will then go through a process of what's called discovery, where will be able to take testimony under oath from people we select from the sheriff's office and anybody else who has relevant information and obtain phone logs, emails, texts, documents and evidence that will support the claim. We will be conducting a thorough investigation into whether others were involved at the sheriff's department beyond the two that were named initially," Harwick said.
Montgomery County Attorney Meghan Manion could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Read the police accident report below.