Newburgh man sues Rockland sheriff, DA, state; claims illegal imprisonment after release

·4 min read

NEW CITY – An Orange County man is accusing the Rockland sheriff and district attorney of conspiring with the state parole agency to illegally jail him without due process, after he served his federal prison sentence.

Philip Aurecchione, 36, of Newburgh filed a federal civil rights lawsuit claiming his constitutional rights were violated when sheriff's officers detained him, took him to the county jail, and later transferred him to state prison. Aurecchione's lawsuit claims he was denied the right to an attorney, to challenge his arrest and detention in court, and to defend himself.

He was detained on June 1, 2021, 11 months after Rockland prosecutors were denied an arrest warrant by Rockland County Judge Kevin Russo to return Aurecchione to prison. Prosecutors and state parole claimed his initial release, on Feb. 25, 2020, was premature due to what they called a calculation error by federal officials, according to the lawsuit filed earlier this month in the U.S. District Court in White Plains.

Rockland County Courthouse in New City
Rockland County Courthouse in New City

He spent more than three months incarcerated before a court-ordered release on Sept. 9, 2021, the suit said. He's seeking $5 million in punitive damages, a declaration he served his sentence and legal fees.

"Our client was treated unfairly and inhumanely," attorney Robert Barchiesi said Tuesday of the suit filed June 1. "During a time when prisons were releasing inmates due to COVID concerns, and reducing the jail populations, our client was placed back in custody, confined during additional outbreaks, where he was isolated for weeks at a time at both the county jail and Downstate Correctional Facility."

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When asked Tuesday to explain the arrest and his office's role, Rockland Sheriff Louis Falco responded, "This is a pending legal matter and as such the sheriff’s office does not comment on pending litigation."

Rockland District Attorney Thomas Walsh and his spokesperson Peter Walker didn't respond to an email request to comment.

The New York State Office of Corrections and Community Supervision, formerly Division of Parole, had no comment on pending litigation, spokesman Thomas Mailey said in a written comment.

Rockland Co. Sheriff Louis Falco offers comments during a press conference on gun violence and bail reform at Rockland County Sheriff's Office in New City on Wednesday, August 18, 2021.
Rockland Co. Sheriff Louis Falco offers comments during a press conference on gun violence and bail reform at Rockland County Sheriff's Office in New City on Wednesday, August 18, 2021.

What happened?

According to the suit, Aurecchione was arrested on state and federal charges.

He was sentenced by a United States District Court, Eastern District judge to two concurrent 18-month terms of imprisonment on Sept. 26, 2019.

On Feb. 5, 2020, after pleading guilty to a state charge of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, Aurecchione was sentenced to two to four years, to run concurrent with an earlier federal sentence, according to the suit.

On Feb. 25, 2020, he was released from federal custody. The suit claims Aurecchione was given "time credits for all periods during which he was in custody on both the state and federal cases along with good time credits and merit eligibility release dates."

He was not, however, taken into state custody at that time to serve the remaining portion of his state sentence due to the failure of the Rockland District Attorney's Office or Rockland Sheriff's Office to place a detainer or hold, according to a Supreme Court judge's decision.

Over the next 15 months Aurecchione "reestablished his life, obtained gainful employment, housing, and remained free of any crimes of incidents." The suit claims during that time he was being surveilled by Rockland officers, leading eventually to the June 1, 2021, arrest "without a warrant or probable cause on the basis that he still owed time on his prior" conviction.

The suit claims after spending time in the Rockland jail, Aurecchione was transferred to Downstate Correctional Facility in Fishkill "without any new orders of commitment."

Barchiesi said Aurecchione was never taken before the court, nor advised as to why he was being held.

"He was denied his most fundamental rights to due process, and as a tragic consequence of these officers’ actions lost everything he was working hard to rebuild," the attorney said.

Rockland Co. District Attorney Thomas Walsh offers comments during a press conference on gun violence and bail reform at Rockland County Sheriff's Office in New City on Wednesday, August 18, 2021.
Rockland Co. District Attorney Thomas Walsh offers comments during a press conference on gun violence and bail reform at Rockland County Sheriff's Office in New City on Wednesday, August 18, 2021.

Legal challenges

Aurecchione's attorneys sought several habeas corpus actions at both the state and federal levels before "we finally won his release and eventual discharge from custody and any further supervision," Barchiesi said.

Barchiesi said the state Attorney General's Office challenged the habeas corpus request, Barchiesi said. Aurecchione was then placed under parole supervision in September 2021 to moot the habeas relief sought.

The suit also asserts a judge awarded Aurecchione time credit for the 15 months he was out of prison, but it was not acknowledged by the Office of Corrections and Community Supervision.

After his release into supervision, parole officers prohibited him from living with his girlfriend, driving and getting a commercial driver's license, making it difficult for him to work, Barchiesi said. He was formally released from parole May 11.

The lawsuit asks for a jury trial, at least $5 million in damages, and attorney's fees from the Rockland authorities and state.

They also are demanding the court issue a temporary restraining order and release Aurecchione from custody and supervision from the Office of Corrections and Community Supervision; and declare Aurecchione served his sentence.

"Following his release from federal custody, our client was working hard to rebuild his life, and suffered irreparable and considerable setbacks as a result of the conduct of the officials involved in this case," Barchiesi said.

Steve Lieberman covers government, breaking news, courts, police, and investigations. Reach him at slieberm@lohud.com. Twitter: @lohudlegalRead more articles and bio. Our local coverage is only possible with support from our readers.  

This article originally appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News: Newburgh man claims false imprisonment, sues Rockland, NY