Her opponents may have fired back last week, but Stacy Parks Miller is not backing down.
The Centre County district attorney is suing the county, her former paralegal Michelle Shutt, the three county commissioners, county administrator Tim Boyde, solicitor Louis Glantz, Judge Pamela A. Ruest, and four defense attorneys for a variety of charges, including defamation, after a year that has included public allegations and a grand jury investigation.
On Tuesday, she filed an amended complaint, just a week after the defendants filed a variety of briefs and motions to dismiss.
The amended complaint adds new charges. In one, the DA alleges breach of fiduciary duty of loyalty and duty of loyalty against Shutt and four defense attorneys: Philip Masorti, Andrew Shubin, Sean McGraw and Bernard Cantorna.
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In the filing, Parks Miller’s attorney, Lance Rogers, argued that Shutt “owed ... a duty of loyalty to maintain the confidentiality of sensitive emails and documents relating to an ongoing criminal investigation.”
That references the biggest controversy regarding the DA’s office, the allegations that Parks Miller forged Ruest’s name on an order that was part of an attempt to infiltrate a plot to hire a hit man to kill former assistant DA Nathan Boob.
When Shutt left the DA’s office to go work for Masorti, Parks Miller says the paralegal copied and emailed documents to herself without authorization.
The amended complaint likewise accuses the named attorneys of breach of loyalty for “assisting and encouraging” Shutt, whose allegations led to a grand jury investigation. That grand jury declined to file charges in July.
Rogers said the breach of duty “caused substantial harm” to Parks Miller. The DA is asking for damages in excess of $50,000 for that charge.
Glantz is charged with legal malpractice in the new complaint for failing to inform Parks Miller of the accusations, which were raised publicly at a commissioners meeting in January. Rogers wrote that as the county solicitor, Glantz should have advised the DA to “seek independent legal counsel if he believed that a conflict existed and that he was unable to counsel or represent her.”
Then there was the count of concerted tortious conduct against all defendants, a claim that all of the named parties worked “pursuant to a common design,” that started with Shutt’s allegations and continued with the attorneys’ assistance. Rogers wrote that “Ruest effectively substantiated Shutt’s false allegations by refusing to tell the truth concerning her involvement in the sting operation,” and the county defendants “exacerbated and amplified the defamation.”
While a grand jury found that the order in question was signed by Ruest, after testimony from a handwriting analyst, the judge originally said that she “could not determine” if the signature was her own. Parks Miller’s filing repeatedly characterized this as impossible.
Shutt’s attorney, Kathleen Yurchak, painted the DA’s lawsuit as retaliation.
“Ironically, and quite sadly, the ‘ultimate law enforcement officer’ of Centre County — instead of choosing to perform her duty to protect witnesses and those supporting a full and fair investigation — seeks to silence and punish any and all who participated,” wrote Yurchak in her most recent brief.
Parks Miller is also advancing a claim for First Amendment violations against the commissioners, Glantz, Boyde and the county, claiming that the whole episode is retaliatory because of her taking “a position adverse to the county defendants by speaking out about the need for a tougher stance on crime.”
Some of the other amendments to the complaint appear to address points raised in the defense briefs recently filed.
For example, multiple filings attacked another count in the suit, the injurious falsehood claims raised against all of the defendants, on the grounds that it should address injury to chattel or property. Rogers refined the argument to address “actual pecuniary loss” due to the “irreparably tarnished ... professional relationship” of the DA.
At a minimum $50,000 per count, Parks Miller’s 13 charges could translate to $650,000 or more in damages.