A federal jury didn't believe Dr. Patricia Dillon's speaking on behalf of inmate care at the Riverhead jail was the key factor in her suspension and firing.
Jurors reached the decision Wednesday, the second day of deliberations in U.S. District Court Judge Arthur Spatt's courtroom in Central Islip.
The verdict means Dillon did not prove that her First Amendment right to air matters of public concern -- abuses of inmates at the Riverhead jail -- was violated by county officials. "Dr. Dillon had her position, we had our position, the jury spoke and we were vindicated," said Suffolk County Attorney Dennis Brown.
One of Dillon's attorneys, David Feather of Garden City, said the decision did not jibe with the evidence, and that he is mulling an appeal. "The jury came to the wrong conclusion in this case," he said. "We believe Dr. Dillon was retaliated against for her First Amendment speech."
"I am one voice," Dillon said after the verdict. "I alone cannot change the practice of the county jail medical unit . . . My voice was heard and the federal court recognized my speech as being protected and the issues that occur in our jail are of public concern."
Dillon filed a lawsuit in November 2007, two months after she was suspended for 30 days without pay by her supervisors, Dr. Humayun Chaudhry, then Suffolk's commissioner of health services, and Dr. Vincent Geraci, medical programs administrator at the jail.
Dillon, who started at the jail on Sept. 4, 2007, after Chaudhry transferred her to the Jail Medical Unit, told her supervisors that she began noticing serious problems with inmate care while reading medical charts. The problems included denying prescriptions, withholding care and falsifying records.
Jurors accepted the county's argument that Geraci and Chaudhry would have disciplined her anyway.
Megan O'Donnell, who represented the county, argued Dillon was insubordinate because she declined to see patients on the grounds that she lacked training in primary care.The county also argued she was insubordinate because she wouldn't return copies she had made of medical documents.After requesting the documents, Geraci informed her that she was suspended on Sept. 13, 2007.