The ex-wife of David Bellavia, former Batavia resident and a Medal of Honor recipient, has filed a Federal lawsuit against the Orleans County Sheriff's Office alleging a violation of her civil rights for an arrest on a harassment charge in January 2021.
David Bellavia is named as a co-defendant in the suit. The suit was filed on Nov. 4.
The suit contains numerous accusations made by Batavia resident Deanna Marlene Bellavia, known professionally as Deanna King, against Bellavia as part of a contentious divorce proceeding that preceded her arrest by Corey Black, who is also named in the suit.
The suit states that King was informed there was an arrest warrant for her in Orleans County. At first, she thought it was a prank. To confirm it was real, she contacted a family member in a command position at the Genesee County Sheriff's Office, He confirmed there was indeed a warrant for her arrest. She made arrangements for the family member, not identified by name in the suit, to be with her in Orleans County when she turned herself in.
Corey Black is identified as a former sheriff's deputy and an investigator for the Orleans County District Attorney's Office. It states Black was not a deputy at the time of King's arrest and states he confronted her with evidence that consisted of a screenshot of David Bellavia's phone log documenting a call from one of the sons of the couple regarding health insurance coverage. There was also a message on an app encouraging David Bellavia to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before visiting his children. The suit states David Bellavia had traveled nationally during the pandemic on speaking engagements and expressed concern for the safety of the children.
The suit states that when King expressed disbelief, "Black cryptically and rather threateningly responded, 'There's more to it than that, but David didn't want to pursue it.'"
The suit claims that Black -- whom the suit also claims is a "right-wing political activist" -- then "confirmed" that he and Bellavia were good friends.
The suit alleges that Black arrested King without probable cause and that an unnamed deputy assisted in her arrest and that Black was acting outside the law as a personal or political favor to Bellavia.
Sheriff Christopher M. Bourke said his office did not arrest King.
District Attorney Joseph V. Cardone said he knew nothing of the suit and said that investigators in his office make arrests on a daily basis. He did not specifically confirm that Black arrested King.
Cardone's office is a co-defendant in the suit. Cardone said he could not comment on the suit. He said he has not been served and had not read the complaint.
"I’m unclear as to what she is claiming," he said.
Black has not returned a call from The Batavian requesting comment.
The court clerk for the Town of Ridgeway said there is no court record of an arrest of King.
King told The Batavian she could not comment on the case and referred The Batavian to her attorney Nate McMurray. The Batavian left a message for McMurray to clarify the status of her arrest. He has not returned the call.
If the case is resolved, it's possible the file has been sealed, compelling the court clerk to deny it exists.
Bellavia referred a request for comment on the suit to his attorney, Joan Adams, of Williamsville. Adams has not responded to a message from The Batavian left with her assistant.
The defendants are accused in the lawsuit of denying King her rights of due process and equal protection under the law. It doesn't specify how much the defendants should pay in damages.
The suit identifies Bellavia as a "political provocateur and radio host" who ran for Congress, has publicly engaged in conspiracies and aligned himself with Donald Trump, Michael Caputo (a former consultant to Trump who briefly served in his administration), and Carl Paladino (a Buffalo developer who has run for governor and Congress).
While the suit describes loving moments and support following Bellavia's and King's marriage in 1999, it also accuses Bellavia of being aggressive and abusive. It specifies several abusive comments allegedly made by Bellavia to King and their three children.
It also claims that Bellavia frequently threatened King with violence, though it does not specify any actual violent action against King.
David Bellavia was awarded the Medal of Honor in the White House by then-President Donald Trump in July 2019. Bellavia is the only living member of the armed forces who fought in Iraq to receive the Medal of Honor. The award was presented for his actions on Nov. 10, 2004, in Fallujah when Bellavia engaged multiple insurgents in an unlit house at night, killing four insurgents and wounding a fifth.
Divorce proceedings began in 2019.
In his new book, "Remember the Ramrods: An Army Brotherhood in War and Peace," Bellavia discusses the awkwardness of going through with the ceremony with his family at a time when he was already alienated from his wife.
"Their mother had insisted she come along to D.C., despite our impending divorce," he writes. "If I hadn’t agreed, the kids would not be allowed to come with me, so I had no real choice on this. The discomfort of two estranged people looking at a weekend together in Washington, D.C., under a microscope of media attention, was something the DoD tried to prepare me for, but until I was living it in the moment, I don’t think either of us understood what this would mean."
The arrest in 2021, the suit alleges, was carried out "to discredit, humiliate" King during the divorce proceedings.
The suit alleges that King did not get fair treatment in divorce proceedings because the presiding judge was Charles Zambito, who had made political contributions to Bellavia. Zambito was not on the bench at the time Bellavia was a candidate for Congress.
"Repeatedly," the suit states, "throughout the course of the divorce proceedings, Judge Zambito ignored evidence of domestic abuse and extreme harassment by Defendant Bellavia—even attempting to pressure Plaintiff to sign a non-disclosure agreement regarding the divorce proceedings—which she refused."
The divorce was finalized in December of 2021, the suit states, and that Bellavia now lives in Florida and has "limited interaction with his children" or King.
In his new book, Bellavia discusses the disconnect he felt with his family back home.
"In this world of normalcy, the people who should have been that innermost circle of my life -- my children, my family -- were almost strangers to me," Bellavia said in the prologue. "I'd been a continent or more away from the majority of my son's young life. I barely had time to experience fatherhood before I deployed overseas. I had a family of my own, but I didn't know them. Rectifying that became the defining feature of my life for many years.
"My real family was still overseas, scattered to different units and areas of operation."
On the side of preserving his marriage while in the military, he concedes that he reached a point where he couldn't accept another overseas deployment. The end result, he wrote, would be divorce. "I wanted to save my family and serve my country. I realized I couldn't do both. I had a decision to make. The hardest of my life."
In the book, Bellavia recounts the divorces of several of the men he served with in Iraq.
"For our generation of warriors, more than the World War II guys, the complexities of a broken marriage and a byzantine, contentious divorce became part of the consequence of our service long ago," he writes. "Most of the Ramrods have gone through it, emerging with deep battle scars that challenged their ability to ever trust again. To be clear, there is no clear right or wrong in these situations. It takes two to make a marriage fail. Right or wrong isn’t the point."
Bellavia and King's attorney, McMurray, have each sought to represent Genesee County in Congress, in separate races. Both lost to now-disgraced former representative Chris Collins, who was convicted on insider trading charges and lying to the FBI in 2019. Bellavia lost to Collins in the 2012 primary, and Collins went on to beat incumbent Kathy Hochul, who is now New York's governor. McMurray lost to Collins in 2018. He lost to Chris Jacobs in 2020.
McMurray recently represented former state senator George Maziarz in a lawsuit against Batavia Downs that was eventually dropped.
For The Batavian's prior coverage of David Bellavia, click here.
Photo: File photo by Howard Owens of David Bellavia in the White House after receiving the Medal of Honor.