It’s about justice and exposing corruption; Cal Harris files suit

It’s about justice and exposing corruption; Cal Harris files suitCal Harris, pictured, recently filed a lawsuit with the U.S. District Court and is seeking compensatory damage from Tioga County, its employees, and other State and Investigative officers. The complaint could be heard in Binghamton, N.Y. as early as December. Here, Harris is standing on the steps of the Tioga County Courthouse where the first two trials took place. (Photo by Wendy Post)

After 15 years and four trials, 56-year-old Calvin Harris, who was on trial and under investigation throughout that time for murder charges in the disappearance of his wife, Michele, is seeking compensatory damages in a suit filed against those who were involved in various aspects of his prosecution. Harris was found not guilty of the charges on May 24, 2016 during a bench trial, and promised, at that time, that a suit would be filed.

On Aug. 22, Harris’ lawsuit was filed, naming Tioga County, the Tioga County District Attorney’s Office, the former Tioga County District Attorney Gerald Keene, Tioga County employees, New York State Police Investigator Steven Andersen, New York State Police Investigator Susan Mulvey, New York State Police Investigator Mark A. Lester, New York State Police employees, and witness Barb Thayer – the nanny.

In an interview with Harris on Tuesday, he talked about the lawsuit, and touched briefly on the process and about the damages he allegedly suffered at the hands of what he described in his lawsuit as being “…. arrested, maliciously prosecuted, unfairly tried, wrongfully convicted, and to endure over three and one-half years of wrongful imprisonment.”

Harris’ estranged wife disappeared sometime between Sept. 11 and Sept. 12, 2001, and was never seen again; her body never discovered.

Harris immediately became the suspect in Michele’s disappearance, and for the next 15 years he was under the spotlight of investigations surrounding his home and business. Harris was charged with murder and endured three trials before the fourth trial, a bench trial, ended in a not guilty verdict and a dismissal of the final indictment; Harris cannot be charged again under this indictment.

At the time of the not guilty verdict, Harris vowed that he would be filing lawsuits. He also urged prosecutors and law enforcement at that time to continue to pursue any leads discovered through his [Harris’] own investigator that he said would lead them to the person or persons that were responsible for Michele’s disappearance.

The lawsuit filed on Aug. 22 by Harris cites what he refers to as incompetence on the part of the investigators and their failure to pursue other leads, to name a few. The suit also claims alterations made to the alleged crime scene and a misrepresentation to the jury of blood evidence found at that scene.

As for Barbara Thayer, who is named in the suit, Harris claims that she altered her testimony and was inconsistent. The lawsuit stated, “…. Barbara Thayer, a willing and able participant who was only too happy to join the ranks of law enforcement.”

But with all of the defendants named, and a 26-page detailed document that states the reasons why, for Harris it is about justice.

“It’s about justice and exposing the corruption,” said Harris during an interview on Tuesday. “Troop C was tampering with evidence,” he added, “and we want to expose this.”

Filed in a United States District Court, the lawsuit will head to court in Binghamton, N.Y. after those named have an opportunity to respond, according to Harris; at that time, the judge will undertake his review.

The first hearing, Harris noted, will take place in Binghamton in December where oral arguments will be heard. After that, the judge will decide whether the complaint will move forward or not.

And although Harris has not put a dollar amount on his losses, he did highlight some of these on Tuesday and noted that the court will ultimately award and decide on compensatory damages.

According to Harris, he lost some of his dealerships, lost the value of the dealerships, lost his freedom, his privacy, and his reputation as a public figure in the retail community. Harris also stated that he was forced to sell his home in Spencer and was wrongly and irreparably separated from his four children.

As for costs, Harris’ attorney fees were in excess of two million dollars, and he also had to pay for the transcripts from all of the trials and hearings along the way.

As for being incarcerated, Harris described it as a very bad experience, but noted that he adjusted by finding constructive ways to help the time go by, such as working in the prison’s library and getting involved in athletic activities.

In the lawsuit, the injuries and damages cited number in excess of 25; and the complaint further states, “As a direct result of his unjust convictions and imprisonment, many [of] these disabilities will plague Mr. Harris for the rest of his life.”

The Pennysaver has reached out to several of those named in the complaint for comment, however at the time of this article none have responded or returned any calls. If this lawsuit moves forward, a trial for this civil matter may take years to resolve for Harris.

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