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Former club manager sues county over gun permit denial

The former manager of a Huntington Station strip club who helped send members of the Pagans Outlaw Motorcycle Club to prison two decades ago has sued Suffolk County and police commissioner Timothy Sini, claiming authorities illegally denied his application for a concealed pistol permit last year.

Sean McCarthy, who the suit says was a key witness against the Pagans, claims he wants the permit because he fears retaliation.

His attorney, Michael Sordi of Northport, said many of the bikers his client helped put behind bars have completed their prison sentences and returned to Suffolk County.

The suit, filed March 23 in federal court in Central Islip, says Pagan members stabbed and assaulted Sean McCarthy in January 1996 and attempted to burn down the Jericho Turnpike club after he barred them and put an end to their extortion of the club owners and dancers. Sordi said McCarthy nearly died from the attack.

Suffolk police granted McCarthy a sportsman permit that allows him to use a gun for hunting, target shooting and home protection, Sordi said. But the lawsuit says they declined to give McCarthy the concealed pistol permit and that Suffolk County officials routinely reject requests for such permits -- even for people with reason to believe they are in danger -- unless the applicant is a judge, prosecutor or retired cop.

“If you are not one of those people, you are not getting one of those licenses,” Sordi said.

Sini spokesman Justin Meyers declined comment, saying he could not discuss pending litigation.

The suit says that in early 1997, McCarthy was approached by a Suffolk County detective and an FBI agent who told him that the Pagans were under investigation for multiple crimes by the federal agency.

The FBI told McCarthy that the Pagans had put out a contract on his life, the suit says, because McCarthy had refused to participate in the gang’s extortion scheme. The suit said McCarthy became a “key, indispensable witness for the prosecution.”

Keith “Conan” Richter, the head of the Pagans on Long Island and a top official in the national organization, was among the dozens of gang members who were arrested in December 1997 and charged with attempted murder, racketeering, extortion and other crimes. At an April 1998 news conference announcing the charges, prosecutors said the bikers had extorted hundreds of thousand of dollars from Long Island topless bars and other businesses. Prosecutors also told reporters that McCarthy had been assaulted because he refused to pay.

When Richter pleaded guilty to racketeering and conspiracy to murder in 1998, he acknowledged in court that he had ordered members of his organization to kill McCarthy.

McCarthy applied for the permit in November 2015, shortly after Newsday reported Suffolk police seized a shotgun, rifle, and five handguns from 11 members of the Pagans and other gangs who were arrested on drugs and weapons charges at a party celebrating the 50th anniversary and “reopening” of the Long Island chapter. But the department said McCarthy had failed to prove he faced personal danger, the suit said. It alleges the department did not complete background checks as required by statute or check with the Intelligence Unit before it denied McCarthy’s request.

Sini is required to personally handle weapons permit requests filed by residents of Suffolk’s five western towns, Sordi said, while the county sheriff’s department reviews applications for the rest of the county. But the suit claims Sini did not review McCarthy’s application.

Three Suffolk police officers who reviewed McCarthy’s application are also named as defendants in the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified monetary damages, attorneys fees and changes in how Suffolk County awards weapons permits.

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