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DWI defendant's suit cites sex abuse by Nassau cop

Jenny Hannigan, of Baldwin, discusses her federal lawsuit

Jenny Hannigan, of Baldwin, discusses her federal lawsuit at her attorney's office in Garden City. (Oct. 21, 2013) Credit: Howard Schnapp

A woman arrested on drunken driving charges two years ago claimed in a federal lawsuit filed Monday that she was sexually abused by a Nassau County police officer in the back of his patrol car, and that the officer texted her days later to inquire how she was doing.

"I was shocked. I was shocked," Jenny Hannigan, 27, said of the attack. "I never thought anything like that, something like that, would happen when I was in custody of the police, whom I always trusted and respected, and still do."

She said the incident occurred after her arrest by Officer Gary R. Zima about 2:15 a.m. on June 10, 2011. She said Zima handcuffed her, put her in the backseat of his patrol car and then sat next to her and touched her inappropriately.

He sent her a text a three days later saying, " 'Hey, how are you doing,' something like that," she said. She said she did not respond.

"The fact that he was texting me wasn't so much more outside of the norm considering what happened, but I was happy it gave me something to show that something odd had transpired," Hannigan, of Baldwin, said at a news conference in the Garden City office of her civil attorney, Amy Marion.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Central Islip, charged that the Police Department had failed to prosecute the offending officers and had violated her civil rights. The suit seeks unspecified monetary damages.

The court papers said the Police Department investigated the incident and found Zima violated department rules by sending the text message, but the allegations of the sexual attack were "undetermined."

The Police Department declined to comment yesterday. County Attorney John Ciampoli said it was too early to comment specifically but said his office was "prepared to defend the county and the Nassau County Police Department vigorously in court."

Online court documents show Hannigan refused to take a breath analyzer test when stopped by the officers. She was charged with several misdemeanors: driving with a suspended license, driving while under the influence or drugs or alcohol, driving without headlights, failure to signal and failure to stay in lane. The case is still pending.

Hannigan said that while the attack was taking place in the patrol car she was trying to make eye contact with the female officer, Rachel Miller, who was driving.

"There wasn't a partition that would have stopped her from seeing what's going on, and I was vigorously trying to make eye contact with her and felt that she was purposely not paying any attention to what was going on in the back," Hannigan said.

Attempts to reach the officers Monday through their union were unsuccessful.

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