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Federal jury awards damages to New Hyde Park firefighters

Former New Hyde Park Fire Commissioner Michael Dolan and his son, Michael Dolan Jr., won $625,000 in a lawsuit against the New Hyde Park fire district and its board of commissioners, their attorney Rick Ostrove said on Wednesday, March 29, 2017. The two men had been arrested for stealing smoke alarms in 2012 but were later acquitted. (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

A federal jury has awarded damages to a former New Hyde Park fire commissioner and his son, who had sued the district after charges that they had stolen smoke alarms from the firehouse were dropped, court papers and lawyers said Wednesday.

Tuesday, the jury in Central Islip awarded $550,000 compensatory damages and $75,000 in punitive damages to Michael Dolan Sr. and Michael Dolan Jr., who had sued the New Hyde Park Fire District and several fire commissioners for abuse of process and malicious prosecution, court records show.

The suit alleged that the defendants gave Nassau police an inflated value for the smoke detectors, saying they were each valued at $50 when they were only $10, with the higher value prompting a felony charge and dismissal from the district, the attorneys said.

Nassau police had said that the Dolans stole 65 Kidde smoke detectors on June 21, 2012, from a secured room in a department firehouse at 1555 Jericho Tpke. They were each charged with grand larceny in the third degree, according to court records.

The devices were meant to be given out to senior citizens in the neighborhood and totaled $3,250, police said at the time.

But attorneys for the Dolans said the smoke detectors were worth only $10 each and that the pair had taken them out of the firehouse for safekeeping after some had gone missing.

The Nassau district attorney’s office dropped the charges on Oct. 12, 2012, and cited insufficient evidence to go to trial, according to court records. But Fire Commissioner Richard Stein then brought departmental charges against Dolan Sr., and a hearing officer ordered his dismissal.

Dolan Sr., a 50-year member of the department, said Wednesday he was glad the suit was behind him.

“I’m very happy the bad experience is over,” said Dolan Sr., 72, who said he is back as a volunteer with the department. “They thought they were going to get rid of me and they couldn’t. I was found innocent. They were found guilty.”

Dolan Jr., a member of the FDNY, who is also a volunteer at the district, declined to comment.

The jury, before U.S. District Court Judge Joseph F. Bianco, awarded $150,000 in compensatory damages to Dolan Sr.; $30,000 in punitive damages for malicious prosecution and abuse of process for Dolan Sr.; $400,000 in compensatory damages for Dolan Jr.; and $45,000 in punitive damages for Dolan Jr. for malicious prosecution and abuse of process.

“They deserve every penny they were awarded. Because what was taken from them can’t be given back, even by a monetary award,” said the Dolans’ attorney, Rick Ostrove, at a news conference Wednesday.

Attorneys representing the fire district and the commissioners either declined to comment or did not respond to a request for comment.

The defendants included Stein, and commissioners John Divello, Michael Bonura and John Brown, court papers said. The jury imposed $60,000 in punitive damages against Stein and $5,000 each for the others.


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