By: Joel Grossbarth
Let the Judge be judged. A sitting Rockland County Court and Acting Supreme Court Judge and his wife are suing the Village of Pomona, its Board of Trustees and a Ramapo Police Officer over what is claimed to be a politically motivated arrest. Lisa Thorsen and her husband Hon. Rolf Thorsen filed a lawsuit in United States Federal Court alleging that Mayor Brett Yagel and the Pomona Village Board ordered an arrest of Ms. Thorsen that was based upon political retaliation.
The events surrounding the lawsuit started when Lisa Thorsen served in the capacity of the Pomona Village Clerk. The Plaintiff’s Complaint alleges that in 2014, Mayor Brett Yagel commenced a campaign of harassment against several Village Hall employees. Ms. Thorsen went to the defense of the employees that were allegedly targeted by the Mayor. It is further alleged that Mayor Yagel said that he would “get” Ms. Thorsen and others in retaliation of their support for their co-workers. Then, Mayor Yagel allegedly hacked into Ms. Thorsen’s private email account, deleted files, reducing workplace duties and other actions. In 2014, Ms. Thorsen resigned from her position over the claimed stress.
Plaintiffs’ Complaint alleges that Ms. Thorsen actively campaigned for Ian Banks, who was running for Mayor against Brett Yagel. Mayor Yagel won re-election, Then again, in 2017, Ms. Thorsen supported Ian Banks who was running for Trustee in the Village. Plaintiffs allege that it that in August, 2017, Mayor Yagel contacted the police and swore out a criminal complaint against Ms. Thorsen claiming she utilized $224.71 in postage without permission from September, 2013 through June 2014. Based upon the Misdemeanor Information sworn to by Mayor Yagel, Ms. Thorsen was arrested on August 10, 2017.
The criminal matter was ultimately dismissed in Ramapo Justice Court by Hon. David J. Stein. While dismissal of matters for small crimes is not unusual, Judge Stein’s findings were surprising. Judge Stein found, as a matter of law that the allegations raised by Mayor Yagel in his criminal complaint do not rise to the level requiring criminal prosecution. Judge Stein also found that Mayor Yagel’s actions were ”groundless and politically motivated.” In an extremely rare move, the District Attorney’s Office joined in Ms. Thorsen’s request that the charges be dismissed, finding no evidence of criminality.
Ms. Thorsen and Judge Thorsen are suing Mayor Brett Yagel, the Village of Pomona and its Board of Trustees and Detective Robert Fitzgerald for false arrest, malicious abuse of process, violations of federally protected rights including free speech, civil rights and conspiracy.
According to a statement issued by the Thorsen’s attorney Michael F. Rubin, Esq. of the Manhattan firm of Kelly & Rubin, LLP, the Thorsens are “calling on Mayor Yagel to resign immediately because the residents of the Village of Pomona deserve better. We are also calling on the Rockland County District Attorney to launch a criminal investigation into [Mayor] Yagel’s behavior.” Mr. Rubin continued by saying “Even if the County won’t act, we are doing our part to seek justice.”
Calls to Mayor Yagel at Village Hall for comment were not returned.