LOCKPORT – State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr. Thursday forced convenience store owner Muwafek S. “Moe” Rizek to sign a document which apparently voids his civil rights lawsuit against the North Tonawanda Police Department.
Rizek brought a suit in U.S. District Court last month in which he accused the police of discriminating against him because of his Arab ancestry and accused Detective Robert Kalota of stealing evidence from a May 15, 2009, fire at Rizek’s store.
Rizek’s insurance company, Finger Lakes Fire & Casualty Co., accused him of setting fire to his own store. Rizek sued the insurers, and a jury in Kloch’s courtroom cleared Rizek of the arson charge in December 2011, instead voting to agree with experts hired by Rizek that it was an electrical fire.
Kalota had testified for the insurance company that he thought the fire at Mark’s Food Market II, 290 Oliver St., was arson.
Rizek, 27, accepted a $500,000 settlement from Finger Lakes in January 2012, and the next day agreed to a release freeing the city from all liability in connection with the fire, in exchange for the city refunding a $2,500 building inspection fee.
However, Rizek never signed the release – until Thursday, when Kloch made him do it.
Brought back to court at the request of City Attorney Shawn P. Nickerson, Rizek and his attorney, Kevin T. Stocker, were compelled by Kloch to sign the release.
Nickerson said in his opinion, the signature wiped out the federal case, but Stocker and Rizek said they will appeal Kloch’s order.
Kloch said Rizek’s agreement to a release of liability was on the record from Jan. 18, 2012.
“The court gave us assurances going forward that we could sue Detective Kalota,” Stocker said.
Kloch said the record doesn’t reflect that and demanded evidence. Stocker submitted affidavits from himself and Rizek. Kloch was unimpressed.
“Anybody can say anything. I can say you killed Kennedy,” the judge told Stocker. “The court has decided to compel execution of the release.”
Rizek signed the document “subject to right of appeal.”
Kloch said, “That’s like writing ‘void’ on it.” He ordered Rizek to sign it again.
Nickerson said he would send the $2,500 to Stocker’s office.
Kloch asked Rizek how his business was going. Rizek gave a noncommittal reply, and Kloch said, “I think you’re better off as a grocery store.”
“I think I’m better off leaving that whole city,” Rizek replied.