A Manhasset restaurateur who had been charged with patronizing a prostitute in the "Flush the Johns" sting filed papers last week that he is seeking damages from Nassau County for false arrest, false imprisonment and other wrongs.
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice consented to the dismissal of the criminal case in December, more than eight months after Louis DiMaria, 39, was arrested in the sting, in which 104 men were netted.
DiMaria's attorney, Salvatore Marinello of Garden City, filed notice of claim March 6 with the county, a precursor to a suit against the county. Marinello said his client was with a friend April 18 when the friend said he had to stop at a Carle Place hotel to meet someone.
DiMaria went into the hotel room bathroom, but as soon as he emerged, he was arrested by detectives using the room for the sting, the attorney said.
"It's the first case that was dismissed in this fashion. They admit they had a legal impediment. The legal impediment is they didn't have a case," Marinello said. "The district attorney's office has to be held accountable for what it does."
He said his client was in divorce proceedings. "I'm not saying it caused the divorce. I think it certainly contributed to it," he said.
The notice of claim -- asserting false arrest, malicious prosecution and other wrongs -- names the district attorney, police and the county as defendants. Nassau County Attorney Carnell Foskey refused to comment.
A Rice spokesman said in a statement: "Prosecutors conduct themselves with the highest priority on fairness for all involved, victims and defendants alike -- in this example, they reviewed the evidence in this case and dismissed the charges as soon as their investigation was completed."
Another man arrested in the sting, Nicholas Sisti, 51, of Mineola, filed a similar claim with the county in July, two months after his arrest and seven months before he was acquitted by a judge at a nonjury trial.
Sisti's attorney, Mark Panzavecchia of Garden City, said in a statement his client had "sustained significant damages."
Both lawyers said they expected to seek about $5 million in damages.
Martin Schwartz, a professor at Touro Law School, said false arrest and malicious prosecution cases must meet a high legal standard, because prosecutors and police officers have broad immunity against such litigation.
Depending on whether they sue in state or federal court, the plaintiffs must show an unreasonable arrest, a lack of probable cause, that the arrest was made with malice and the case ended without a conviction.
He said that the facts in the Sisti case may have a difficult time in a suit because the case went through pretrial hearings and the court found there was probable cause to go to trial.
"It doesn't mean they won't succeed in these cases, but they have to make a strong showing," Schwartz said.