Southampton Town and its police department are facing another lawsuit from another arrestee whose conviction was vacated due to the Suffolk County district attorney's review of more than 100 arrests involving a police officer who was reportedly addicted to drugs while on the job.
The police officer, Eric Sickles, is on suspension, but his former supervisor, Lt. James Kiernan, who is also a defendant in the lawsuit, is working again after the Town Board settled disciplinary charges against him related to his oversight of the Street Crimes Unit.
The Street Crimes Unit, which conducted narcotics investigates, has since been disbanded.
The plaintiff, Kwame Opoku, of North Sea, was arrested at his home on Jan. 19, 2011. He was charged with felony and misdemeanor drug possession counts, as well as a misdemeanor count of criminally using drug paraphernalia. Police also said that Opoku was in violation of parole. He was imprisoned and subsequently convicted, but the district attorney's office had the charges vacated, according to Opoku's lawsuit.
Kiernan, who was then a sergeant, stated in a press release the day of the arrest that Opoku was among four men arrested in an early morning raid of a Noyac Road "distribution house," where crack cocaine, marijuana, pills, scales and packaging material were found while the Street Crime Unit executed a search warrant.
The lawsuit alleges that at 3:50 a.m. that day, Sickles entered Opoku's house and searched his home and person without a warrant, “planted narcotics” on him, and placed him under arrest.
The lawsuit states that “Police Officer Eric Sickles, in order to effectuate this false arrest, forcefully, aggressively and violently placed the plaintiff in handcuffs,” and “violently” threw Opoku into a police vehicle head first. The lawsuit further alleges that Sickles lied to a grand jury, and as a result, Opoku was falsely imprisoned. But, according to the lawsuit, the charges were dropped and indictment dismissed on July 24, 2012, and his arrest and prosecution were nullified.
In his lawsuit, Opoku alleges that his constitutional rights to “freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, freedom from compelled self-incrimination, and the right to equal protection under the law” were violated.
The lawsuit further states that Kiernan was aware of Sickles’ drug addiction, but still permitted him to participate in narcotics investigations and was aware that Sickles “fabricated evidence, planted drugs and individuals, filed false reports and lied under oath.”
A notice of claim was filed against Southampton Town on Sept. 25, 2012. According to town records, the Town Board voted Oct. 9, 2012, to set aside up to $10,000 to hire the law firm Devitt Spellman Barrett LLP to defend the town and the police department from Opoku's claim.
Attorney Jeltje DeJong, of Devitt Spellman Barrett, reportedly told Newsday that the police "acted in accordance with the law" and said that in Opoku's case and others, the jury will find in favor of the town and police.
The police department also faces a lawsuit from Mohammed Proctor, a Riverside man whose drug conviction was vacated in May 2012.
Opoku is currently imprisoned on unrelated charged at Five Points Correctional Facility, a maximum security men's prison in Romulus, N.Y.
In addition to Sickles and Kiernan, also named as defendants in the lawsuit are former Police Chief James Overton, former Police Chief William Wilson, and “unknown John Doe supervisors, detectives and police officers employed by the town of Southampton.”