Hearing adjourned for acquitted Potsdam murder suspect's lawsuit against special prosecutor
Thursday, March 16, 2017 - 5:26 pm

By ANDY GARDNER

A hearing on motions to determine whether acquitted murder suspect Oral “Nick” Hillary’s lawsuit against Onondaga County and their district attorney can move forward has been postponed until April 12.

Hillary is suing local government, law enforcement and prosecutors in separate proceedings there and in St. Lawrence County alleging false arrest, malicious prosecution, fabrication of evidence, falsification of evidence, concealment of exculpatory evidence.

Hillary, a former Clarkson University soccer coach, was tried in September for second-degree murder, accused of strangling to death 12-year-old Garrett Phillips on Oct. 24, 2011. He was acquitted after a high-profile bench trial that lasted about three weeks and drew national media attention.

A hearing was scheduled for Wednesday in Onondaga County Court, which was adjourned due to scheduling conflicts, according to attorney Thomas Mortati, who is representing the Village of Potsdam in a separate lawsuit.

Attorneys were supposed to argue a notice to file a late notice of claim after the defendants were not served papers on time due to insufficient postage.

In St. Lawrence County Court, the parties agreed to dispense with oral arguments and allow Judge Mary Farley to issue a written ruling. Mortati said that could take 30 to 60 days.

He said the Onondaga County matter could be argued orally or be settled through a written ruling by the judge, which would be decided April 12.

If the lawsuit proceeds and the case goes to federal court, Hillary will have to be deposed by Mortati and several other lawyers, which earlier in March he said he thinks “will be somewhat eye-opening.”

The defendants named in Hillary’s post-acquittal lawsuit include St. Lawrence County District Attorney Mary Rain, St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin Wells, St. Lawrence County Sheriff Deputy John Jones, former Potsdam Police Chief Edward Tischler, former Potsdam Police Chief Kevin Bates, Acting Potsdam Police Chief Mark Murray, New York State Police investigators Gary Snell, Theodore Levison and Timothy Peets, former state police Crime Lab Assistant Director Julie Pizzaketti, Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick, 10 unidentified St. Lawrence County employees, 10 unidentified St. Lawrence County District Attorney’s Office employees and 10 unidentified St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department employees.

Hillary also has a pending lawsuit from before the trial. He is suing the Village of Potsdam, New York State Police and Potsdam Village Police for violating his constitutional rights during the murder investigation. He alleges he was unfairly singled out as a suspect and denied basic rights of the accused during questioning.