Judge drops civil case against Southampton Town police

Southampton Town Police Department in Hampton Bays. (May Southampton Town Police Department in Hampton Bays. (May 17, 2012) Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

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A civil case brought by a convicted drug dealer released from prison last year following a probe of the Southampton Town Police Department was dismissed Monday morning, according to lawyers for both sides.

Mohammed Proctor, who had charges against him dismissed in May during a probe of the police department by Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota, had claimed in his suit that police conducted an unlawful, warrantless search by removing a bag of cocaine from his rectum and falsely arrested him, among other claims. He originally sought $50 million in a suit he handwrote while behind bars, but had reduced the amount to $8 million in an amended complaint filed by his lawyer last year.

Dismissal of criminal charges against Proctor followed revelations that one of the arresting Southampton Town police officers, Eric Sickles, had been addicted to prescription drugs at the time of the arrest. Sickles has undergone rehabilitation and was reinstated by the department earlier this year.

In Proctor's civil case, jury selection was to have begun in U.S. District Court in Central Islip, but U.S. District Court Judge Sandra Feuerstein read a lengthy statement from the bench dismissing the suit, both sides said. Feuerstein was not reachable at her chambers Monday afternoon. Court officials said a transcript of the judge's statement was not immediately available.

Stephen Krawitz, an attorney for Proctor, said in an email that before the trial, he withdrew claims of excessive force and denial of medical attention against the defendants, and argued that Proctor "should not have to prove false arrest . . . since legally the arrest never took place."

Feuerstein dismissed the remainder of the claims, said Krawitz and attorneys for the town. Krawitz said he was waiting for a copy of the judge's decision "to determine whether or not to move to reargue the court's decision or file an appeal."

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Jeltje DeJong, an attorney for the town at Devitt Spellman Barrett, said the dismissal resulted from the judge's finding that "while his [Proctor's criminal] conviction was vacated, it didn't mean he was innocent" of the charges against him.

DeJong, who said police acted properly in arresting and charging Proctor, said she wasn't surprised by the judge's filing. "The fact that the conviction was vacated had nothing to do with what the officers did in this particular case," she said.

The decision could strike a blow to at least one other case filed in federal court against the town following six other dismissals. Kwame Opoku, who had drug possession charges against him dropped last year, has filed a case in federal court earlier this year. Two of Opoku's co-defendants, Bernard Cooks and Nathaniel Cooper, have filed notices of claim signaling their intent to file claims against the town.

Tiffany Scarlato, Southampton Town attorney, said, "The town is very pleased with that result. It does bode well for the remainder of the cases."

Southampton Town Police Chief Robert Pearce said he'd been informed of the judge's decision in the civil case. He said police officers had acted lawfully in the Proctor arrest.

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