Index No.: 12-1437
Appearances: Plaintiff: Anthony Grimaldi Self-Represented Plaintiff 74 Pine Grove Avenue Kingston, New York 12401 Defendant: No Appearance
Decision & Order
Supreme Court, Ulster County
Motion Return Date: January 17, 2019
RJI No.: 55-13-00078 Present: Julian D. Schreibman, JSC Appearances:
74 Pine Grove Avenue
Kingston, New York 12401
No Appearance Schreibman, J.:
Now pending before the Court is plaintiff's motion, brought on Amended Order to Show Cause, to (a) vacate a judgment issued upon the Order of the Hon. Mary Work after trial and (b) to refer to the Ulster County District Attorney the matter of defendant's alleged perjury in the trial before Judge Work. Although the motion is unopposed, the Court must still consider whether the moving party has carried its burden. For the reasons set forth herein, the motion is denied in both respects.
This matter was assigned to this Court because Judge Work has retired. --------
Plaintiff argues that the Court's judgment should be vacated because "defendant's perjury resulted in an unfair judicial outcome." Plaintiff's affidavit in support of his motion carefully details six allegedly false statements made by defendant Joseph Sangi. According to plaintiff, Mr. Sangi falsely claimed:
(1) That he had been wrongfully convicted in New Hampshire;
(2) That 14 felony charges against him in New Hampshire were dropped upon production of exculpatory evidence;
(3) That as of September 2010 he was still contesting the seizure of $240,000 in connection with his New Hampshire prosecution;
(4) To have truthfully disclosed the nature of the drug rehabilitation program to the Town of Saugerties Planning Board;
(5) That OASAS regulations did not apply to the type of drug rehabilitation program he intended to open; and,
(6) That he had a 95% success rate in treating drug addicted clients.
In addition, plaintiff alleges that Mr. Sangi's testimony at the second trial contradicted his prior sworn testimony - either at the first trial or his deposition - with respect to the following topics:
(1) The price of a used car he purchased for use in connection with the business; and,
(2) Whether he had assembled a staff of counselors and a list of accepted clients as of a certain time-frame.
For each of these eight items, plaintiff provided excerpts from the trial transcript showing the alleged false statements and then for each one, as applicable, listed documentary proof, prior testimony or other information tending to show that the testimony of Mr. Sangi was false.
While plaintiff has shown that there is ample reason to doubt the veracity of Mr. Sangi's testimony in general, none of these specific falsehoods relates to the narrow legal question presented to Judge Work. The issue at trial was simply whether a $25,000 note payable to the plaintiff by Mr. Sangi personally had been subsumed into an $85,000 note payable to the plaintiff by the business the parties' had created.
In reaching the conclusion that the $25,000 obligation had been extinguished, the Court relied principally on the testimony of John Hoyt, Esq. to the effect that he had explained to the plaintiff that the $85,000 obligation replaced the $25,000 obligation and that he (Mr. Hoyt) had physically destroyed the original $25,000 promissory note. The Court explicitly found that the purported original of the $25,000 promissory note tendered by plaintiff was in fact a copy. As for the circumstances surrounding the purported novation, the Court specifically found that plaintiff's testimony was "vague" and "[a]t critical points, his memory would fail him or he would say he really didn't understand what was going on." The Court also recited in her decision a series of questions and answers she propounded to plaintiff during the trial in which he appeared to contradict himself about the key factual issue. The Court concluded that "[i]t was impossible for the Court to gain a clear picture of what happened" from the plaintiff's testimony. Crediting Mr. Hoyt's testimony, the Court explicitly found that plaintiff knew and intended for the $85,000 note to replace the $25,000 note.
In short, there is nothing in the record to suggest that any of Mr. Sangi's allegedly false statements had any influence on the outcome of the factual findings and legal conclusions in Judge Work's decision.
More critically, Judge Work herself explicitly recognized that Mr. Sangi's testimony at trial was misleading. Indeed, with respect to the first two points most heavily emphasized by plaintiff now - that Mr. Sangi claimed to have been exonerated in New Hampshire - the Court found that "[t]here is absolutely no evidence before the Court to support this claim." To the contrary, the Court reviewed evidence tending to show that Mr. Sangi's protestations of innocence were false. As a result, "the Court attache[d] very little credibility to his testimony." Indeed, there is nothing in Judge Work's decision to suggest she gave any weight at all to Mr. Sangi's testimony. The only discussion of the substance of his testimony is a single paragraph summarizing his version of events regarding the $85,000 note. There is not a single factual finding in the Court's decision that is founded or dependent upon any factual claim made by Mr. Sangi.
There is simply nothing in plaintiff's motion to undermine Judge Work's factual conclusions and legal analyses concerning the straightforward issue that was before her. Even if plaintiff is correct regarding every single alleged falsehood made by Mr. Sangi, these simply had no effect on the outcome of the trial. Accordingly, the motion to vacate is denied.
To the extent this Court would have authority to refer perjury charges in a trial over which it did not preside, that part of the motion is also denied. The decision of whether to bring charges for an offense is committed to the sound discretion of the District Attorney or the Grand Jury as the case may be. While a judge may be willing to bring potential instances of perjury in his or her own courtroom to the attention of authorities, this Court believes it would be inappropriate to do so where he was not the presiding judge. Plaintiff possesses the written findings of Judge Work that Mr. Sangi gave "misleading testimony" in the proceedings before her. He is certainly free to bring that finding, along with any other evidence he has marshalled, to the attention of the District Attorney.
This shall constitute the Decision and Order of the Court. The original Decision and Order and all other papers are being delivered to the Supreme Court Clerk for transmission to the Ulster County Clerk for filing. The signing of this Decision and Order shall not constitute entry or filing under CPLR §2220. Plaintiff is not relieved from the applicable provisions of that rule regarding notice of entry.
SO ORDERED. Dated: March 28, 2019
Kingston, New York
JULIAN D. SCHREIBMAN, JSC Papers considered: Order to Show Cause dated November 27, 2018 and Amended Order to Show Cause dated December 10, 2018; and Affidavit in Support of Order to Show Cause by Anthony Grimaldi dated November 23, 2018 with attached Exhibits.