Former defense attorney sues Burnsville police, Dakota County
A former defense attorney jailed for weeks on the subsequently dropped charge that he set his girlfriend on fire — resulting in international news coverage, including a Taiwanese cartoon casting him as a maniac — has filed a federal lawsuit against the law enforcement agencies involved.
The suit, filed in federal court in St. Paul last week on behalf of David J. Gherity, 62, and his then-girlfriend Joan Isabella, accuses Burnsville police and Dakota County Attorney’s Office of violating Gherity’s constitutional rights.
It also names two investigators who worked for the department during the 2014 case, along with chief Eric Gieseke and the Hennepin County Medical Center, where Isabella received treatment after the fire.
The suit alleges unlawful arrest and confinement and violation of the “protected liberty interest in his (Gherity’s) good name.” It further alleges the agencies hid evidence, manipulated witness statements and kept Gherity in jail knowing he was innocent.
Joseph E. Flynn, an attorney representing the city of Burnsville, responded, “We find the claims to be completely unfounded, and we will be addressing the specific claims with the actual facts in court.”
Flynn added that Gherity’s arrest was based on “compelling statements of the victim, forensic evaluation and interviews of numerous witnesses. The investigation was thorough, complete and timely, and we had probable cause to proceed with the arrest.”
The Dakota County attorney’s office declined comment.
In February 2014, firefighters were called to the Burnsville condominium where Gherity and Isabella lived, and found Isabella sitting at a table with burns on her head and face, neck and legs.
Gherity, 62, was charged in April 2014 in Dakota County District Court with first-degree assault and two counts of first-degree arson. He was arrested and held in jail from April 2 until May 30 of that year, according to the suit; charges against him were dropped on June 13.