Great Neck resident and former congressional candidate Michael Weinstock has filed a lawsuit against his former opponent, Melanie D’Arrigo, who he claims purposefully exposed him to COVID-19 by forcing him to make frequent trips to the post office in the spring of 2020.
Weinstock said D’Arrigo, a progressive candidate from Port Washington who has already announced her candidacy in the 2022 election to represent the 3rd Congressional District, deliberately forced him to visit the post office more than 30 times to deal with “a barrage of frivolous lawsuits” during the early stages of the pandemic.
Weinstock’s lawsuit aims to hold D’Arrigo accountable for forcing him to leave his home at a time when health and safety measures were not yet handed down by the government. Weinstock, who is representing himself in the lawsuit, said he never contracted the virus, but said D’Arrigo’s messages to the public to stay inside during the spring of 2020 were contradicted by the challenges she filed against him.
“I wanted to stay at home, too, but this aggressive wellness coach was forcing me to leave my house every afternoon,” Weinstock said. Weinstock and D’Arrigo are both Democrats.
The initial complaint was filed by Weinstock in state Supreme Court in Nassau County on Aug. 30, according to court documents.
D’Arrigo, along with former congressional challenger Josh Sauberman and Peter Johnson, the husband of D’Arrigo’s campaign manager, Tracy Bacher, were listed as the defendants on the legal complaint. The legal challenges against Weinstock last year were filed by Johnson, according to D’Arrigo, and argued that Weinstock’s name should be omitted from the ballot because of faults in petitions signed by voters to allow him to run.
“Michael Weinstock has filed a frivolous lawsuit riddled with false accusations. During the last election cycle, Mr. Weinstock issued a press release where he admitted to committing fraud to get on the ballot,” D’Arrigo said in a response to Blank Slate Media.
“His petition signatures to get on the ballot were then requested, and after seeing that only a small fraction were legitimate and confirming that the petition challenge process was 100% virtual where no one would have to leave their house, his signatures were challenged with documents sent to his home by mail.
“Mr. Weinstock admitted to committing fraud in an attempt to get on the ballot. When faced with accountability, he threatened violence, weaponized antisemitism and endangered my family. When we volunteered to withdraw the challenge, Mr. Weinstock bizarrely refused. Ultimately, he was allowed on the ballot last election cycle not because of the validity of his signatures, but because the legal documents arrived by mail to his house one day late. We look forward to this frivolous lawsuit being dismissed soon.”
Sauberman, in an email to Blank Slate Media, denied the allegations made by Weinstock.
“At present, we have not been served,” Sauberman said in the email. “However, we vehemently deny any allegations made by Mr. Weinstock, and look forward to their immediate dismissal.”
Efforts to reach Johnson for comment were unavailing.
Arthur Schwartz, an attorney representing the three in the litigation, questioned the legitimacy of Weinstock’s claims against D’Arrigo and said in an email to Blank Slate Media he has “nothing better to do.”
“Last year he got attention by alleging that Melanie, through her Jewish, observant attorney, engaged in an antisemetic attack on him because he was sent a UPS package which was left at his door on a Saturday,” Schwartz said.
According to court filings, Schwartz said Weinstock’s actions and defamation attempts warrant financial restitution for D’Arrigo totaling $750,000. A total of $500,000 is being requested for Weinstock sullying D’Arrigo’s reputation and $250,000 is requested for D’Arrigo’s emotional distress, according to court filings.
Schwartz also called for the complaint to be dismissed under the Anti-SLAPP law and an additional $1 million in punitive damages be awarded to all of the defendants “jointly and severally,” according to court filings.
“Weinstock has filed suit with only two purposes in mind, first to get publicity for himself, second, to attempt to derail … D’Arrigo’s candidacy, now accusing her of attempting to expose him to COVID-19, and again repeating his baseless allegations of antisemitism in a district which has a sizable number of Jewish voters,” Schwartz said in a counterclaim.
D’Arrigo and Sauberman filed a lawsuit against Weinstock last year in an attempt to disqualify “fraudulent” and “out-of-district” petition signatures.
Legal challenges were also filed by Johnson against D’Arrigo, something, she claimed, was a mistake. D’Arrigo said there was a “miscommunication” with the campaign staff and that her intention was to challenge the petitions of Weinstock and Tom Suozzi, a Democrat from Glen Cove who was re-elected to the congressional seat.
Last year D’Arrigo said the pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus “became serious very quickly” and caused the “miscommunication.”
According to court filings, Sauberman mailed a copy of general objections to Weinstock’s petitions to his home, while Johnson did not. Johnson took no further actions relating to Weinstock’s campaign after March 24, 2020, according to court filings.
Weinstock sought to quash the suit by invoking a state law which states it is illegal to serve legal papers to an observant Jew on the sabbath or Shabbat. According to state law, people who deliberately serve observant Jews with legal papers on Saturdays can be charged with a misdemeanor. An appellate court in Albany ultimately dismissed the lawsuit, claiming it was filed one day late.
Schwartz, who also represented D’Arrigo last year, told the Jerusalem Post in April 2020 that Weinstock is a “non-observant Jew and a BS artist.”
After the courts ruled in Weinstock’s favor, he did confirm that he wrote down some of the names of residents who expressed their support but did not want to “touch my pen or get too close to my clipboard” for health and safety reasons.
“When this happened, I wrote down the person’s name, and their address, and I included a note at the bottom of the page, describing the interaction,” Weinstock said.
Weinstock is a former sex-crimes prosecutor and a rescue worker in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. D’Arrigo calls herself as a progressive Democrat who hails from Port Washington. She is a community activist and said she served as the campaign manager for former state Assemblyman Anthony D’Urso in 2018.
D’Arrigo is currently campaigning for the congressional seat held by Suozzi. The 3rd Congressional District includes Manhasset, Roslyn, Port Washington, Great Neck and Floral Park, among other areas.