A Flushing activists lawsuit that accused members of the New York Yankees of physically abusing him and firing him because he is gay and HIV-positive was dismissed last week by the New York State Court of Appeals.
Paul Priore, 39, a former assistant equipment manager for the Yankees, filed a lawsuit against the baseball team and three specific ball players in State Supreme Court in the Bronx in 1998, telling the court that players had tried to rape and sodomize him and that the team had fired him for being gay and HIV-positive.
A lower court had decided that the case should go to trial, but in May 2003, the State Supreme Courts Appellate Division unanimously reversed that decision on the grounds that the case should not go to trial because there was no evidence that team officials knew that Priore had the HIV virus.
To have a trial, you have to have some evidence to support your claim, said Gary Spencer, a spokesman for the New York State Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state.
The motion for leave to appeal was denied on Dec. 22, 2003. The leave to appeal was the last step in the state case.
Priore, a Flushing resident who has tried to improve Flushing Meadows Corona Park, said he was surprised and outraged to hear that the court had decided not to hear the case without giving any reason.
If it had been a woman or a child, people would be accepting these things much easier, but because Im an HIV-positive gay man, people dont know how to deal with it, said Priore. Im disgusted with the whole legal system that they could refuse to hear a case. When it comes to me, apparently the law doesnt work.
Priore said he would like to try to take the case to federal courts.
People dont realize if this decision stays, its going to affect other people in the near future. It means that anyone can abuse anybody and discriminate against anybody, said Priore.
Priores lawyer, Edward Pavia Jr., did not return calls.
A spokesman for the New York Yankees said the ball team had no comment on the dismissed suit.
Its been dismissed and well let it stand at that, the spokesman said.
Priore said he grew up with the Yankees because his father, Nicholas Priore, was the equipment manager for the team for 43 years. He began working as an assistant equipment manager for the team off the books in 1990 and was officially put on the payroll in 1996, he said.
Priore said his problems with the teams stemmed from his getting involved with several players sexually.
Several other players then tried to rape and sodomize him, Priore said.
In 1997, the Yankees fired Priore.
The Yankees have said that they fired the assistant equipment manager largely because they believed he stole players worn T-shirts, baseballs and broken bats that were to be thrown away. But Priore said he was fired for being gay and HIV-positive and the organization does not want the case to go to trial because a lot of stuff is going to come out.
Last month Priore suffered another loss when his gay lover, Guillermo Sanchez, 21, of Woodside, committed suicide by hanging himself from a tree in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, according to police.
Im so disgusted with everything, said Priore. Im still trying to get over Guillermos death, and then I have this brought up. Ive never heard of not being able to have due process. I rely on the legal system to stand up for me and give me the same protection as everyone else and I dont even get these rights.
Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com, or call 718-229-0300, ext. 155.
©2004 Community News Group
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