ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey — A city councilman is asking the New Jersey Supreme Court to reinstate his lawsuit alleging malicious prosecution by the state attorney general's office.
Marty Small sued the state, claiming prosecutors wrongly charged him with voter fraud in 2009 after being acquitted of similar charges three years earlier.
An appeals panel dismissed the lawsuit last month, saying that prosecutors have immunity for actions taken in the course of their jobs. But Small's lawyers claim the state "coached and corrupted witnesses to target" the councilman to get back at him for the previous acquittal.
"Small had his life engulfed by a 19-month criminal proceeding — from indictment through a nearly six-month trial," his lawyers wrote in their request to the high court to take the case. "He spent a total of 85 days at the Atlantic County Courthouse. Defendants had retaliated for Small's 2006 acquittal."
Small and five others were acquitted in March 2011 of charges that they tampered with absentee ballots during the 2009 Democratic primary campaign for Atlantic City mayor. Prosecutors had accused them of trying to steal the election by manipulating ballots designed for voters too sick to make it to the polls.
The councilman sued after the verdict, alleging the state knew it had no evidence against him but prosecuted him anyway.
Small lost the 2009 primary to then-incumbent Mayor Lorenzo Langford, and filed suit against the state in December 2011.
In the 2006 case, Small also was found not guilty of voter fraud. That case alleged ballot fraud in a previous mayoral election in which he was not a candidate.
Small said he has spent over $100,000 on legal fees defending the criminal charges and pursuing the civil case against the prosecutors.
His request to the Supreme Court claims the appeals panel made several errors in dismissing the suit, and asks the justices to rule on whether the state should be considered "a person" subject to being sued under the state Civil Rights Act. It also asks the court to decide whether a malicious prosecution act should be dismissed when there are disputed issues of malice and probable cause to bring charges.
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC