A state appeals court has ruled against a former Tioga County police chief who admitted spreading lies that two Lebanese-American men were involved in terrorism.
According to court documents, James DeVita, then police chief in the village of Owego, made the allegations after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
The chief admitted going around town in uniform, claiming that pizza shop owners Michael Yammine and Hassid Kazan, both naturalized Americans and fathers with long-standing ties to the community, were drug and gun runners in league with Osama bin Laden. He also admitted knowing that the claims were false, the court said. Neither of the men is Muslim.
Last June, the state Supreme Court ruled for the shop owners in a slander lawsuit against DeVita and awarded $200,000 each for damage to their reputations and their business. The police chief, who retired about the same time, appealed the decision. But last week the appellate court upheld the damages, which will likely come out of the village's insurance policy.[Link]
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