A U.S. Magistrate on Wednesday upheld a motion by David Bellavia to remove him as a codefendant in a lawsuit filed by his ex-wife alleging a conspiracy to effect a false arrest by officials in Orleans County in January 2021.
In his ruling, Magistrate Jeremiah J. McCarthy states that Nathan McMurray, the attorney for Deanna King, failed to make the case in his complaint filed with the court that King's arrest in the Town of Ridgeway lacked probable cause.
McCarthy said the complaint lacked the facts necessary to substantiate an arrest without probable cause.
The written opinion is a recommendation by McCarthy to the presiding federal judge, John L. Sinatra, who will issue a final ruling.
King, according to documents filed in Federal Court, was arrested in January 2021 while she and Bellavia were in the midst of a contested divorce. The case was eventually sealed by a justice in the Town of Ridgeway, and the final disposition of the case has not been publicly disclosed.
Bellavia, a former Batavia resident, was bestowed the Medal of Honor by President Donald Trump in 2019. King is a Batavia resident and a broadcast personality in Rochester.
McMurray unsuccessfully ran for Congress three times, seeking a seat that would have included Genesee County. He is currently an attorney associated with Advocates for Justice Chartered Attorneys, based in New York City. He has represented George Maziarz in a lawsuit against Batavia Downs that was eventually dropped. He is also the attorney of record in a lawsuit against the Town of Irondequoit that was recently dismissed. He's reportedly also threatened the Veterans Administration with a lawsuit related to the Route 77 intersection next to the WNY National Cemetery in Pembroke.
In the initial claim written by McMurray on King's behalf, Bellavia is accused of threatening to have King arrested as part of an ongoing communication during their divorce proceedings. Bellavia was, according to the suit, upset with King because of social media posts. It alleges that Bellavia "followed through" on his threat by contacting a friend and political ally who works for the major crimes unit of the District Attorney's Office to effect King's arrest.
King claims that Corey Black called her at her home in January 2021 and informed her there was a warrant for her arrest.
There is no publicly available information on the warrant and which court might have issued it, though the case was handled by the Town of Ridgeway Court.
In Divorce Court, King and Bellavia were apparently instructed to communicate only about the children using a parenting app called AppClose.
The initial complaint filed by McMurray states:
On January 8. 2021, he (Bellavia) texts, “You are going to get in trouble.” Ms. King never called him, other than her having her son call him after repeated attempts to obtain health insurance information via the parenting application had failed. Accordingly, Ms. King explained on December 31, 2021, “I haven’t called you or had any non-children contact related with you, nor do I have a desire to call you. I only wanted the health insurance information you wouldn’t give.”
None of the assertions made in the complaint, McCarthy ruled, rise to the level of proof that King was wrongfully arrested and that her civil rights were therefore violated.
"Although King repeatedly alleges that she was arrested and prosecuted without probable cause, she does so only in (a) conclusory fashion," McCarthy wrote.
Meaning, the magistrate believes McMurray, or King, is concluding that there was no probable cause but doesn't provide sufficient facts to substantiate the claim.
McMurray, via text message, said he disagrees with the magistrate's opinion.
"The court ordered Ms. King to communicate with Mr. Bellavia on a parenting app about the children, which she did," McMurray stated. "Mr. Bellavia, however, continued to harass and threaten her on the app, which is all documented. There was no probable cause to arrest Ms. King, an issue that the court has not ruled on as of yesterday."
McCarthy heard oral arguments in the case on Tuesday and, in his written ruling, was critical of McMurray's presentation and "failure to identify the factual and legal elements of the specific criminal charge against King because the criminal complaint was sealed."
It's unclear from court documents if McMurray or King sought to have her case unsealed, at least for the purpose of providing those documents to McCarthy. McCarthy indicates the documents were not available to the court and were apparently not reviewed by McMurray.
"How, then, could he allege in good faith that probable cause was lacking?" McCarthy wrote. "By signing the Complaint and proposed Amended Complaint, he certified that 'to the best of [his] knowledge, information, and belief, formed after an inquiry reasonable under the circumstances.”
In making the filing, McCarthy states, McMurray also asserted that “the factual contentions have evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, will likely have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery.”
McMurray, via text message, said he plans to object to the ruling.
"To explain what was actually decided, the judge did not yet resolve whether it was appropriate for an investigator for a district attorney (in a distant county) working in a major felony drug crimes unit — who was not a police officer and just happened to be the friend of the defendant, Mr. Bellavia — arrested a mom because she asked for a health insurance card for her kids. But we will proceed with our efforts to get answers."
Regarding McMurray's assertion of a "distant county," one of the assertions of King's complaint is that authorities in Orleans County did not have jurisdiction in the matter because neither Bellavia nor King lived in Orleans County at the time of the criminal complaint against King.
Bellavia declined to comment on the matter, but a close associate of Bellavia's said that Bellavia has lived in Orleans County consistently since 2015.
Bellavia's attorneys, Donald W. O'Brien, Jr., and William F. Savino, declined to comment for this story.
According to a prior filing by the attorneys, many of the allegations made in King's complaint raise allegations made during the divorce proceeding and should have been kept confidential. They also sought to seal a memorandum delivered to the court by McMurray that made new allegations that, the attorneys said, were subject to seal as part of the divorce proceedings. Earlier this month, McCarthy declined to redact and seal those portions of King's complaint. The attorneys have the option to reapply for sealing that portion of the suit.
Orleans County, the Orleans County Sheriff's Office, the Orleans County District Attorney's Office, Corey Black, and "Deputy John Doe" are all named codefendants in the lawsuit, and the complaint against those defendants has not been dismissed. None of those codefendants have filed answers with the court, and McCarthy issued an indefinite stay of their requirement to respond pending further proceedings in the case.