County DA Hit With Two Lawsuits

Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota
Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota
Suffolk County's chief prosecutor is increasingly finding himself a defendant these days.

In the last month, Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota has been slapped with two federal lawsuits, named as a defendant in both a civil rights and a discrimination suit. 

Newsday reports that Kwame Opoku, of Southhampton, whose 2011 conviction was set aside in the wake of an investigation of the Southampton Town Police Department, has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Spots and his office.

Opoku and three others were arrested by Southampton police in a January 2011, raid and charged with drug possession. He served six months in prison, according to the lawsuit, before a judge overturned his conviction, along with those of seven others, at Spota's request in July, 2012. The action came after revelations that  Officer Eric Sickles, a member of the Southampton PD's now-disbanded Street Crime Unit, was addicted to prescription drugs when he arrested Opoku and the others.

According to Newsday, the suit, filed May 1 in Central Islip, alleges that Opoku "spent more time in jail because Spota's office did not turn over material related to Sickles' addiction…The suit also alleges that police planted drugs on Opoku and 'assaulted and battered' him before arresting him. Representatives for the town have denied those charges."

This legal action follows on the heels of a lawsuit, reported by the New York Daily News late last month, by a former Long Island prosecutor, who claims that she was sexually and racially harassed by a supervisor and a colleague in the Suffolk DA's office.

The former prosecutor, AveMaria Thompson, made the charges in a federal discrimination suit against chief of the District Attorney's narcotics bureau Robert Ewald and prosecutor Kathleen Wagner. Spota was also named in the suit.

As the News reports:

Thompson, who is black, alleges Ewald requested that she recite a sexually explicit poem, questioned her about the penis size of Jamaican men and made insensitive remarks about amputees knowing that Thompson’s husband is an amputee. The suit also accuses Wagner of referring to Thompson as a “monkey in a suit.”

Thompson, who was fired last May for frequently turning up late to work, insists that the dismissal was, in fact, retaliation for speaking up about the incident. Last month, the state Division of Human Rights found probable cause to her complaint.

According to the News, a spokesman for Spota said: “Ms. Thompson's claims of discrimination and retaliation are false. Ms. Thompson’s employment was terminated solely as a result of her refusal to fulfill the responsibilities of her position as an Assistant District Attorney because of her excessive, unexplained and disruptive lateness."


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