QUEENSBURY -- A Queensbury town justice has decided not to reopen a criminal case against a local restaurant owner who was charged with a felony for having a motorcycle with an allegedly defaced vehicle identification number.
Justice Michael Muller has also denied a request by the defendant, Michael Willig, to hold the state Department of Motor Vehicles in contempt of court for not immediately abiding by an order issued by Muller directing that the motorcycle be returned.
Muller found there was insufficient basis to resurrect the criminal charge of possession of a forged instrument against Willig.
Muller's office would not release details of the decision Friday, saying the court file was sealed because there was a favorable disposition for Willig in the case. The decision likely ends the criminal case.
Willig was arrested in September 2009 after investigators from the DMV saw his vintage Harley-Davidson chopper parked outside his Queensbury restaurant, Adirondack Seafood, and claimed the VIN was illegible and "intentionally defaced." Willig said the VIN was damaged due to wear and tear from the road.
Muller dismissed the criminal charge in the interest of justice and ordered the motorcycle returned. But the DMV refused to return the bike, arguing it couldn't do so because it didn't have a VIN. The DMV also sued Muller in state Supreme Court, a lawsuit the DMV lost.
Willig had sought to reopen the criminal case so he could get a decision on its merits.
Muller's ruling ends the case in Queensbury Town Court, but Willig has filed a notice of claim against the state alleging malicious and illegal prosecution. A notice of claim is a precursor to a lawsuit.
Willig said Friday that the motorcycle also was damaged before it was returned to him.
"This isn't over," he said. "It didn't work out the way we wanted (in Town Court), but we plan to pursue the notice of claim."
Willig's lawyer, Kurt Mausert, said he was "very disappointed" that Muller did not find the DMV in contempt of his order when it refused to return the motorcycle for nearly six months. The vehicle was eventually given back after a hearing in Town Court on Nov. 2.
"Judge Muller's opinion was Michael had been afforded a due process of law," Mausert said. "DMV got the snot kicked out of them. They picked on the wrong guy. Michael stood up to these people."
The town had considered seeking reimbursement from the state of the town's $7,200 in legal expenses for having to hire a lawyer to defend Muller against the DMV lawsuit, but Queensbury Supervisor Dan Stec said it was determined the town could not make a claim.