A lawsuit brought by a retired NYPD detective that charged Long Island’s LGBT Network and its chief executive with defaming him has been stayed while attorneys in the suit spar over a recording of the chief executive that was made by a witness in the case.
The 2016 lawsuit charged that David Kilmnick, the president of the Network, instructed an employee at the agency to create social media accounts that said that Tom Verni, an out gay 22-year veteran of the NYPD who retired in 2013, was a pedophile who was using his status as a former detective to lure underage kids into sexual encounters. Allegedly, Kilmnick was angered after Verni organized a group of former employees, board members, and donors in 2015 to complain to the social services agency’s board of directors about Kilmnick’s leadership.
Anthony Colleluori, who was Verni’s lawyer and of counsel at Raiser & Kenniff, a Long Island law firm, introduced Michael Serao, who was originally a defendant in the lawsuit and is now just a witness, to a private investigator who wired Serao so he could record a conversation he had with Kilmnick. Serao paid the private investigator $600 for the service. Serao’s 2018 deposition, which was filed online in the lawsuit, suggests that he thought he was making the recording at Colleluori’s behest and to aid the Network’s best interests. The tape was made in August 2016.
Oscar Michelen, a partner at Cuomo LLC who represents Kilmnick, has been seeking a copy of the tape in discovery for at least a year, but Colleluori has not produced it, saying the tape was never in his possession and was never his to produce. Michelen has sought to have the case dismissed at least twice alleging that Verni’s lawyer has engaged in misconduct over his handling of the tape.
The descriptions of the recording’s contents in court records indicate that Kilmnick did not implicate himself in producing the Verni social media posts, so that could be helpful to the defense.
The Nassau County Supreme Court judge in the case, Robert Bruno, ordered Colleluori to produce the tape last year or explain his efforts to obtain it and why they were unsuccessful. Colleluori has said that he has heard the tape, but does not have a copy of it. His efforts to get a copy of the tape from Serao or the private investigator have been unsuccessful, according to statements he has made in court records. In June of this year, Michelen, to whom the Network referred Gay City News’ questions and who declined to comment, sent subpoenas for the tape to Serao and to the private investigator and to Colleluori and his law firm.
Serao declined to tell Gay City News if he has a copy of the tape and referred questions to Yetta Kurland, his attorney, who did not respond to messages seeking comment. The private investigator, Edward Dowd, did not respond to a message seeking comment.
In May of this year, Bruno ordered an evidentiary hearing for July 31 that was meant to discover if Colleluori ever possessed the recording, if it has been lost or destroyed, if Colleluori “intentionally or negligently failed to preserve the recording in the face of knowledge that Kilmnick was entitled to discover it,” and “the extent that any loss or disposal of the recording was not intentional.” The hearing would also determine if “the conversation was relevant to Kilmnick’s defense.”
On July 17, a second judge, Bruce Cozzens, stayed the evidentiary hearing and instead required Colleluori to appear for a deposition by Michelen at the offices of Raiser & Kenniff on July 30. It is highly unusual for an attorney to become a witness in a lawsuit in which he previously represented one of the parties.
“He’s claiming that we destroyed a tape that we never had,” Colleluori told Gay City News. “Serao hired the investigator… I heard the tape, but I was never given a copy of it… The tape belongs to Serao. Somehow or other, the investigator or Serao lost the tape.”
Serao’s deposition gave some ammunition to Verni’s case. He testified that he heard Kilmnick say publically that Verni was a pedophile on several occasions at the Network offices or events.
Kilmnick has not been deposed in the lawsuit. Adam Lombardi, the former Network employee who was allegedly directed by Kilmnick to create the social media accounts that accused Verni of being a pedophile, has begun giving a deposition in the lawsuit, Colleluori said.
“It was horrendous against Kilmnick,” Colleluori who is now on disability and is no longer representing Verni, said of Lombardi’s deposition.
Another attorney, Ethan Irwin, at Raiser & Kenniff is now representing Verni.
After this story was published, Michelen responded to Colleluori’s description of the ongoing Lombardi deposition in an email writing, “My opinion of the Lombardi deposition is that he came across as untruthful and evasive and I remain confident that the Network and Mr. Kilmnick will be vindicated in the end.”