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Sun., Oct. 4
Serving the communities of Massena and Potsdam, New York
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Clarkson soccer coach files lawsuit against Potsdam


CANTON - The head men’s soccer coach at Clarkson University has filed a lawsuit against the village of Potsdam and four members of its police department, alleging he has suffered “physical and psychological trauma” after being named a suspect in last year’s slaying of 12-year-old Garrett J. Phillips.

In legal papers filed in state Supreme Court, Oral “Nick” Hilllary alleges that the police slandered him, damaged his reputation and caused him mental humiliation.

According the suit, Mr. Hillary was held “against his will” by police Oct. 26, 2011 in a holding room at the Potsdam Police Department and that his cellular phone was illegally seized and never returned. The police that day also prevented him from getting the keys to his home, the suit alleges.

The action also says the department issued slanderous statements that implicated him in the Oct. 24, 2011 death of the boy at North Country Manor Apartments, 100 Market St., where Garrett lived with his mother in an upstairs apartment. The boy was found unconscious and unresponsive and the death was ruled a strangulation.

Mr. Hillary was detained and questioned two days later, but was not charged.

As a result of being falsely accused, the lawsuit claims Mr. Hillary has suffered anxiety, anger and loss of sleep, causing him to seek counseling from medical professionals, clergy, family and friends.

The lawsuit follows the notice of claim that Mr. Hillary filed in April. It seeks unspecified damages. Besides the village, defendants include former Village Police Chief Edward F. Tischler, Lt. Mark R. Murray, Sgt. Michael Ames and Sgt. Charles M. Daniels, who was a patrolman at the time of the killing.

Potsdam Village Mayor Steven W. Yugartis said Wednesday he does not believe the case has merit.

“To the best of my knowledge, there is no basis to those claims,” he said. “Certainly the village will follow up and investigate the situation and try to resolve it.”

The suit also alleges that on Nov. 30, 2011 police officers grabbed Mr. Hillary’s 1-year-old son from his arms and forcefully seized his cellular phone when they came to his home with a search warrant.

The search caused Mr. Hillary to suffer mental humiliation, pain and “great distress of mind and body, the suit said.

The suit was prepared by attorney Mani Tafari, New York City.

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