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District Attorney’s Office Ordered to Reinstate Wrongfully Terminated Assistance Coordinator

The Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office has recently been ordered to rehire Gigi Potocki, the DA’s victim assistance coordinator, after she was wrongfully terminated for helping the victim of an abuser who had ties to the DA’s office.

The abuser involved is the son of the DA’s chief investigator, Dean Decker.

Potocki recounts the events over the last four years in a YouTube video published in April.

Alison Watson, the victim, called Potocki one night, scared for her life. She said she was being abused, and no one could help her because her boyfriend was Craig Decker, Dean Decker’s son.

“I don’t know why you’re bothering to call the police, you know who I am,” Watson recalled Dean saying to her.

According to police reports on Syracuse.com, Craig Decker choked Watson with both hands while kneeling on her chest, punched her in the head, dragged her around the room by her hair, smashed a bed frame into her head, and dropped her on her tailbone.

According to Watson, 45-year-old Decker told her, “I could kill you and get away with it.”

Decker, however, told police that he only shoved Watson.

When a frightened Watson got a hold of Potocki, she was reassured that there were special prosecutors to whom victims can go in such cases. Potocki referred Watson to Vera House for abused women.

After the conversation Potocki, who never had an issue with Dean Decker in the past, wanted to let the chief investigator know about the phone call and the referral to Vera House.

Potocki said that Dean was very upset and insisted that his son did nothing wrong.

A few days after the phone call, Dean Decker began harassing Potocki and continued for more than two years until she was terminated — on concocted accusations — for falsifying time sheets, not being where she claimed to be, and accessing a restricted police database without “good reason.”

Although slips, trips, and falls make up roughly 85% of worker’s compensation claims, issues surrounding harassment, like that Potocki faced, are much more complicated. In this situation, Potocki encountered retaliation and accusations of wrongdoing — even when she was innocent.

Dean Decker even tried firing her in 2013 over an accusation that she stole a Kindle from the assistant DA’s office. The Kindle was never stolen in the first place.

“The harassment never stopped,” Potocki said. “I did nothing wrong — I just helped that lady.”

Potocki was fired in 2014 and has fought the ruling ever since.

A state arbitrator ordered District Attorney William Fitzpatrick to reinstate Potocki and give her $70,000 in back pay.

“The appropriate remedy is that Potocki shall be reinstated, made whole, and compensated for all time and wages lost,” Paul Zonderman, state arbitrator said.

Syracuse police charged Craig Decker with second-degree assault and second-degree strangulation charges — both are felonies with possible prison sentences of up to seven years. However, he ended up pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of third-degree assault and was sentenced to a one-year conditional discharge and required to stay away from Watson.

Yet Craig Decker ignored the order of protection and continued to harass Watson by repeatedly calling her, visiting her home, and threatening to beat up her new boyfriend. Decker was not charged over any of those allegations.

Potocki has always been interested in bringing people to justice, and that’s why she loved her job.

“I loved being able to help people when they’re at their lowest, when they feel hopeless, being able to give them hope,” she said. “I could help them through one of the most difficult things they’ll ever go through.”

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