A Westbury woman will seek damages from Suffolk County and its police department, claiming false arrest and prosecution stemming from a traffic stop last month, her attorney said Wednesday.
Attorney Thomas Liotti of Garden City said he filed a notice of claim on behalf of Nyeaira Fulton, 22, who was arrested Sept. 18 after the electronic license plate reader on a police car showed her car’s registration had been suspended.
Fulton said at a news conference she was not aware of the suspension, and refused an officer’s order to get out of her car because the officer was acting “hostile” and had his hand on his gunbelt.
A video shot by another person and posted on Facebook showed an officer dragging her out of her car by her feet, and several officers pinning her to the ground.
“My client was horribly abused, assaulted and battered by the Suffolk County Police Department,” the attorney said, referencing the video.
Fulton is black and the first officer on the scene was white, Liotti said. The notice of claim did not allege a civil rights violation nor a racial element.
“To me, it also shows, systemically, a fundamental problem of racism within our society,” Liotti said. “The police may be acting somewhat symbolically on behalf of other people out there in our society who are showing severe rudiments of racism.”
Fulton was charged with reckless driving, obstructing governmental administration and fleeing an officer in a motor vehicle, all misdemeanors. She was also issued numerous tickets for driving with a suspended registration, not having insurance, failing to surrender her license plates and running two stop signs.
Fulton has pleaded not guilty to all charges. She is due back in court Oct. 25.
The police department had no comment on the notice of claim.
Sitting in Liotti’s office Wednesday, Fulton said she was not aware that police were trying to get her to stop. She said her eyeglasses had just broken and all she could see in her rearview mirror were bright lights.
Police said at the time that the encounter took place at 6:18 p.m. on East First Street in Deer Park.
Joey Pappas, who lives on the block and shot the video, told Newsday a few days later that before he began filming he saw Fulton speed down the street, hit a stop sign and lose control of her car.
Fulton said the tires on her 2013 BMW “lost their grip. They’ve done that before,” and her front wheels jumped a curb and the car came to a halt with the front wheels on someone’s lawn.
On the video, an officer can be heard repeatedly ordering Fulton to get out of her car.
“Get out of the car,” the officer said. “Do not drag me,” she said. “Get off of me!” she added as he tried to remove her from the car, at one point pulling her by both ankles.
Suffolk police said at the time they review all incidents involving use of force. A notice of claim is a precursor to a lawsuit for monetary damages.
Liotti said he did not have a dollar figure in mind for damages.