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Glen Park: Driver, not police chief, legally to blame for high-speed crash

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GLEN PARK — The village contends in legal papers that the driver of a car that crashed into another vehicle during a high-speed police chase was responsible for the accident, not the village’s police chief involved in the pursuit.

A passenger in the vehicle that was struck, Autumn Tharrett, Brownville, filed a state Supreme Court lawsuit in December against the village, its police department and Chief Larry M. Jobson, claiming that Mr. Jobson was negligent by displaying a reckless disregard for others when he pursued Francis T. “Terry” Morgia II at speeds in excess of 80 mph as Morgia sped away from the village at speeds up to 120 mph.

The Oct. 3, 2011, pursuit ended at routes 12 and 342 in the town of Pamelia when Morgia’s vehicle crashed into one driven by off-duty Watertown police Officer William K. Rafferty, who was injured in the accident. Mr. Rafferty’s mother, Shirley H. Hammond, 75, was killed in the crash, while his brother, Jeffrey C. Hammond, and Miss Tharrett were injured.

The crash occurred after police had been alerted to an elderly woman being robbed of her purse at the Kohl’s department store in the town of Watertown. Mr. Jobson observed the vehicle described as being involved and attempted to halt it, but Morgia failed to stop.

In responding papers filed Wednesday at the Jefferson County clerk’s office, the village denies that Mr. Jobson was negligent and has asked that the action against it be dismissed. The village also filed a third-party complaint against Morgia, claiming it was his negligence that caused or contributed to Miss Tharrett’s injuries, which included traumatic brain injury, among other severe and permanent injuries. The village maintains that if any judgment is rendered against it as a result of the legal action, Morgia should be liable for paying all or part of it. The third-party action also names as defendants Patricia M. and Thomas K. Rienbeck, Cape Vincent, as the claimed owners of the vehicle Morgia was driving.

The villages of Brownville and Dexter and their police departments were named as defendants in Miss Tharrett’s complaint, as Mr. Jobson, a 25-year veteran of the county Sheriff’s Department who retired in 2008 as undersheriff, also is a police officer in those villages.

Morgia pleaded guilty May 15 in County Court to second-degree murder in connection with Mrs. Hammond’s death, admitting that he was under the influence of cocaine at the time of the crash. He also pleaded guilty to 10 other charges, including counts related to multiple purse-snatchings, and was sentenced June 25 to 18 years in state prison. He is serving his sentence at Clinton Correctional Facility, Dannemora.

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