Dennis A. Delano may have been dogged in his pursuit of justice, but he also was insubordinate, according to a federal judge.
Delano’s four-year old civil suit against the City of Buffalo was dismissed last week by Chief U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny, who nevertheless praised the former Buffalo detective for helping to uncover the truth about the murder of 13-year-old Crystallynn Girard.
Delano is revered for the “doggedness with which he carried out his job,” Skretny said, and yet he stepped over the line when he gave crime scene evidence to reporters.
“No matter the merits of his motivation, Delano violated direct orders and various departmental rules,” the judge said in dismissing Delano’s suit.
Skretny’s decision closes, at least for now, a legal case that began with Delano’s suspension from the department in 2009. The cold case detective chose to retire instead, but a year later filed a federal lawsuit challenging the 60-day suspension by then-Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gibson.
“He’s glad this chapter is closed, and closed with an appropriate ending,” said Terrence M. Connors, who with James W. Grable Jr., represented Gibson.
In his suit, Delano argued that his public comments about the Crystallynn Girard case – he questioned the evidence against Crystallynn’s mother, Lynn DeJac Peters – were protected by the First Amendment. Peters spent nearly 14 years in prison for her wrongful conviction in the case. She died two months ago.
“We’re obviously disappointed in the decision, and we’re reviewing all our options, including an appeal,” said Jeffrey B. Novak, one of Delano’s attorneys.
Novak said the judge’s decision could have a “chilling effect” on police officers eager to speak out publicly about questionable evidence or investigations.
A lawyer for the city disagreed.
“We’re very pleased with the decision, and the court made a very well-reasoned decision along the points we argued,” said Adam W. Perry, a lawyer for the city.
After retiring from the force, Delano entered politics and eventually won election as a Cheektowaga town justice. In February, he stopped showing up for scheduled court sessions and, in June, retired from the bench.