b Self-Helpless: True Tales of a Working Girl: Judge dismisses torture suit against county but not parks supervisors

4/26/2007

 

Judge dismisses torture suit against county but not parks supervisors

Westchester County is off the hook in a lawsuit filed by a learning-disabled man who says he was tortured by his supervisor at the county Parks Department.

A federal judge has ruled that Anthony Costabile, 24, of Thornwood failed to file a notice of claim with the county in a timely manner.

But U.S. District Judge William Conner refused to dismiss the suit against three Parks Department supervisors, saying that the notice of claim requirement did not extend to them. Conner also ruled that, contrary to the county's assertions, Costabile's allegations of torture and abuse are enough to constitute a claim under the state's human rights law.

"Indeed, in 33 years on the bench, we have never encountered allegations of mistreatment in the workplace so shockingly malicious and sadistic," Conner said in a 20-page decision filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in White Plains. "Plainly, if they are true, plaintiffs' allegations reveal that defendants violated not only minimum standards of human decency but numerous provisions of law."

A spokeswoman for Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano declined to comment.
Costabile's lawyer, Gerald Resnick, did not return calls seeking comment.

Costabile claims he was tortured in the summer of 2003 and again in the summer of 2004 while working for the department at Glen Island Park in New Rochelle.

He names supervisor Roberto Alcantara as his tormentor in several alleged incidents of abuse at the park, many of them involving shrink wrap.

Alcantara shrink-wrapped Costabile to a chair and then set the shrink wrap on fire when Costabile could not free himself, Costabile and his mother, Candida, claim in their lawsuit. In another alleged incident, Alcantara shrink-wrapped Costabile to a chair with wheels, rolled him out to the parking lot at Glen Island and turned a hose on him, dousing him with such force he nearly choked. Alcantara also is accused of shrink-wrapping Costabile to a chair and then dumping buckets of cold water on him, causing Costabile to strain so hard to free himself that he developed a hernia that required surgery. The supervisor was also accused of verbally abusing Alcantara, calling him "retard" and "idiot," according to the Costabiles' complaint.

Costabile was fired in 2004 for leaving work 15 minutes early, even though he had permission to do so, according to the complaint. But the county says he was fired for leaving a piece of equipment unattended.

He and his mother sued the county, Alcantara, and two of Alcantara's bosses in May 2006. The county filed a motion to dismiss in September. Three weeks later, Costabile filed papers seeking Conner's permission to file a late notice of claim. In yesterday's decision, Conner denied Costabile's motion, saying that he was not empowered to grant it, that Costabile would have had to ask a state Supreme Court justice for such a waiver. But Conner said even if he was authorized, he would not grant Costabile's request because the request came more than two years after the alleged incidents, well beyond the state's deadline of one year and 90 days.

The original article can be viewed at LoHud.com.

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