Gallagher faces new legal round in rape case

Gallagher faces new legal round in rape case
Photo by Ellis Kaplan
By Sarina Trangle

Former City Councilman Dennis Gallagher, who represented the Middle Village area for seven years, has at least one trial ahead of him.

After resigning his seat in 2008 and pleading guilty to sexually abusing a Middle Village grandmother in a criminal case, Gallagher, 48, became embroiled in a civil lawsuit filed by the victim, Jacqueline Morrow, 57, and her husband.

Gallagher, who was first elected to the Council in 2001, served as the sole Republican from Queens in the 51-member body.

Queens State Supreme Court Judge Sidney Strauss previously ruled that Morrow did not need to establish Gallagher’s liability in the civil suit for claims stemming from rape, forcible touching, fondling, assault and battery.

But Gallagher appealed this decision and judges determined Jan. 29 that accountability had only been established for the misconduct the councilman pleaded guilty to or discussed under oath. This includes sexual abuse, forcible touching, assault and battery, according to the Morrows’ attorney, Gerald Chiariello II.

To pursue money for damages from other crimes alleged in the civil complaint, including rape, false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress, Chiariello said the couple would need to take Gallagher to trial.

The lawyer said a jury would have to be convened to determine how much the councilman should compensate the Morrows, regardless of whether they move to go to trial for rape and other charges.

“We’re not sure what path we’re going to take,” Chiariello said. “She’s upset at the whole process. She really wants to have it over with.”

Gallagher’s attorney, Keith Sullivan, did not respond to requests for comment.

Prosecutors initially alleged Gallagher met Morrow at a bar July 8, 2007, and brought her back to his Middle Village office, where he raped her.

The married councilman described the sex as consensual.

He later resigned as part of a 2008 plea deal that kept him out of prison and off the sex offender’s registry.

While the criminal case unfolded in Queens Criminal Court,, Chiariello said the Morrows paid for surgery on both of the grandmother’s knees, which he said were injured during the attack.

The civil suit also claims Morrow suffered “extreme physical, emotional and mental distress, embarrassment and mental anguish,” some of which may be permanent.

Chiariello said court documents suggest Gallagher is relying on his brother for financial support, which complicates his client’s decision.

“Would you want to relive that experience in front of six jurors if you’re never going to get paid?” Chiariello said.

The attorney said juries do not take into account the wealth of defendants when awarding verdicts.

He noted that attorneys typically attempt to seize assets and otherwise collect money when such a situation arises.

Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at strangle@cnglocal.com.