ROCHESTER, N.Y. (CN) – A woman claims she was maliciously prosecuted for stealing human bones and tissue from corpses to generate headlines for a publicity-hungry district attorney’s re-election campaign. She says she was cleared of 81 felony counts because her bosses at Biomedical Tissue Services had told her “that proper consents for the retrieval of these items had been obtained.” A human body can fetch as much as $250,000 “on the open market,” according to the complaint.
Darlene Deats sued Monroe County, its District Attorney Michael Green, and two assistant DAs, Timothy Prosperi and Jennifer Whitman, as officials and as individuals.
The 81 criminal counts of body stealing, opening graves and unlawful dissection of the body of a human were dismissed, according to her federal complaint.
She adds: “Because it was clear that the defendant was instructed by both her immediate supervisor and by the president of BTS that proper consents for the retrieval of these items had been obtained, there can be no doubt that both the police and the prosecutors acted in bad faith in continuing the prosecution of the plaintiff, and there was no probably cause to arrest and prosecute Deats ab initio.”.
Biomedical Tissue Services, now defunct, harvested human bone and tissue for use in surgical procedures. Hundreds of lawsuits have been filed against the company.
According to Deats’ complaint: “Body parts can only be donated, and only with the expressed, written consent of the donor, before the person dies. However, on the open market, one body can bring as much as $250,000 for harvesting and transplant companies.”
Biomedical Tissue Services was accused of teaming with funeral directors who allowed BTA to use funeral homes to extract bone and tissue from bodies scheduled for cremation, without legal consent from next of kin.
The FDA and the Kings County DA led an investigation into the company, which was based in Fort Lee, N.J.
“The investigation resulted in a February 2006 Kings County indictment, charging four men, associated with Biomedical Tissue Services, with operating a $4.6 million enterprise which fraudulently and illegally harvested bone and tissue from funeral homes for subsequent sale to processing companies where it would be used in surgical procedures around the world,” according to Deats’ complaint.
Deats worked on a “recovery team” at a BTS satellite office outside of Rochester.
Recovery teams went to funeral homes to perform the bone and tissue extraction.
Deats claims that Monroe County became involved in the investigation, and without evidence or probable cause, accused her of illegally harvesting body parts from 23 corpses.
Deats says that Monroe County DA Michael Green distorted facts to implicate her and used the story to get headlines and votes.
“A myriad of press articles surrounded this sensationalistic ‘body stealing’ case at a time in which DA Green was seeking re-election,” the complaint states.
When questioned by authorities, Deats said she dealt only with funeral home managers and never talked to donors’ next of kin. She said that funeral homes never supplied her with copies of the donor’s death certificate.
Deats says she relied on assurances from her supervisors, including company president Michael Mastromarino, that proper consent had been obtained.
Deats claims Monroe County prosecutors “relied solely on the FDA & Brooklyn DA’s office investigation and did no substantive investigation of their own.”
She adds: “Defendants deliberately failed to conduct a thorough and adequate criminal investigation into the alleged crimes perpetrated by Deats, because they either knew, or should have known, that such an investigation into the law and facts would have exonerated Deats, which is not something the District Attorney’s Office wanted to concede, particularly in light of the media given to this case.”
Deats seeks punitive damages for wrongful imprisonment, malicious prosecution and emotional distress. She is represented by Christina Agola.