New York - The Queensbury business owner whose motorcycle seizure case generated statewide media attention has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the state and numerous representatives of the state Department of Motor Vehicles.
The lawsuit by Michael J. Willig seeks $2 million in damages for violations of his rights to be "free from unreasonable searches and seizures" and due process rights. He suffered "loss of liberty, fear, humiliation and emotional distress."
The lawsuit stems from Willig's arrest on a felony charge in September 2009 after investigators from the state Department of Motor Vehicles inspected his vintage Harley Davidson motorcycle at his Queensbury restaurant and concluded its vehicle identification number was illegible and alleged it was intentionally defaced. Willig said it had been worn down by exposure to the elements.
They seized the bike, setting off a protracted legal battle in Queensbury Town Court that ended with calls to hold DMV in contempt of court.
Queensbury Town Justice Michael Muller ultimately dismissed the criminal charge in the interest of justice and ordered the motorcycle returned.
But the DMV refused to return the bike, arguing it couldn't do so because it didn't have a VIN. The DMV also sued Muller in state Supreme Court, a lawsuit the agency lost.
Willig, owner of Adirondack Seafood, ultimately received the bike back more than 14 months later.
The lawsuit names the commissioner of DMV, the DMV investigators who handled the case - Anthony Rainville and William Corp - and the agency itself.
It alleges DMV investigators illegally came onto Willig's property to inspect the motorcycle without a search warrant and without probable cause.
Days later, despite Willig's assertions he had proof the vehicle identification number was accurate and not tampered with and direction to investigators as to who they could call to verify the information, police arrested him in his restaurant in front of customers.
Willig referred comment to his lawyer, but said his goal in the litigation wasn't financial.
"I'm more concerned about accountability than compensation," Willig said.
His lawyer, Eric Schneider of Kingston, could not be reached for comment Monday.
A call to the state Department of Motor Vehicles was not returned Monday.
Disclaimer: The opinions in this article are solely those of the writer, and may not reflect the beliefs of anyone at the Biker News Network/Outlaw Biker World.
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