In a new development in a years-long legal battle, lawyers for Yaron Kweller, one of the defendants in the Colonial case, filed a petition earlier this month against the Binghamton Police Department (BPD) and Broome County District Attorney’s (DA’s) Office.
Through the Article 78 proceeding — a motion that challenges an action or inaction by state agencies and local governments — Kweller is seeking “declaratory and injunctive relief” from the BPD and DA’s Office because of “intentional” violation of Kweller’s rights. It reiterates Kweller’s claims that respondents denied him equal treatment, failed to provide due process in violation of his Fourteenth Amendment rights and withheld exculpatory evidence.
“Said acts were done knowingly and with the consent and condonation of the [DA’s] Office and the [BPD] with the express purpose of harming [petitioner] and infringing upon [his] rights,” the court filing read.
The charges stem from a November 2021 incident on Washington Street in Downtown Binghamton. Kweller, a former managing partner of The Colonial and Dos Rios Cantina — which have since closed — was arrested in February 2022 with co-defendant Jordan Rindgen. Kweller was initially arrested on felony charges of first-degree rape and the commission of a first-degree criminal sex act. The developments drew protests and a mass demonstration organized by students and community members.
Kweller is seeking relief because of a refusal to obtain a search warrant for S.H.’s, one of the Colonial case victim’s, iCloud. By seeking the order to nullify the failure to obtain a search warrant, Kweller is asking for an order to compel the BPD and DA’s Office to obtain and execute a search warrant on the iCloud account from Nov. 27, 2021 through Feb. 24, 2022. The motion also demands that the court rule that the refusal to apply for a search warrant violated Kweller’s due process, declare that respondents failed to perform their legal duty and order any other relief the court deems “just and proper.” The criminal case began with jury selection on Oct. 23.
Charges against Leor Kweller were thrown out this summer by Carol Cocchiola, the judge presiding over the trial in Broome County Court. The DA’s Office is currently appealing the ruling.
BPD and Elena Fast, one of the attorneys involved in Kweller’s defense, did not respond to Pipe Dream requests for comment. A DA’s Office representative said that they “would not be permitted to comment.”
Marcos Rodriguez, a junior majoring in computer engineering, expressed doubt in the legal developments.
“I remember when I first heard about the case two years ago and was shocked to hear that there are still ongoing trials,” Rodriguez said. “While I know everyone has the right to pursue a lawsuit, I don’t know what Kweller is expecting to get from this petition.”
The trial’s opening statements have been delayed, but are expected to resume on Oct. 26 at 9 a.m.