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Florida man's suit says Nassau police wrongly arrested him in car key robbery case

UPDATE: A federal wrongful arrest lawsuit filed by a Florida man against Nassau County has been settled, court records show.

Jamie Ballerini, 39, of Palm City, Florida, was arrested in July 2014 for allegedly robbing a motorist of his car keys in Farmingdale, Nassau County police said. The charges were dismissed in March 2015, county court records show.

In August 2015, Ballerini sued the county as well as the district attorney’s office and the police for wrongful arrest. Court documents show a tentative settlement in the case was reached in January, but do not state the terms; the judge discontinued the lawsuit in March. Ballerini said he could not discuss the tentative settlement on the advice of his lawyers. County spokesman Michael Martino declined to comment other than to say there was a tentative settlement.


The story below was originally published on Sept. 1, 2015.

A Florida man was wrongly arrested by Nassau County police last year and charged with robbing a motorist of his car keys, a federal lawsuit says.

The lawsuit against the county, the district attorney's office and the police was filed Aug. 25 in U.S. District Court in Central Islip by Jamie Ballerini, 36, a licensed pilot who lives in Palm City.

The lawsuit, seeking unspecified damages, said prosecutors eventually dropped the charges against Ballerini.

Police said at the time that Ballerini and Robert Nichols, 28, of Glendale, Arizona, were in a car that was involved in an auto accident at 10:52 p.m. on July 3, 2014, at Melville Road and Main Street.

The two men got out of their car and began to grab and beat the 52-year-old driver of the other car, who was still in his vehicle, police said.

They then grabbed the victim's car keys from the ignition, returned to their car and drove away, according to police. The two men were arrested without incident at 177 Conklin St. in Farmingdale, where Ballerini lived at the time, and charged with robbery in the second degree, police said.

Ballerini's lawsuit said he did not know that Nichols had taken the motorist's car keys.

After he explained that to the officers, they "unlawfully handcuffed and arrested plaintiff for robbery without probable cause, and subsequently searched plaintiff's home without any lawful authority to do so," the lawsuit says.

The Nassau district attorney's confirmed Tuesday that charges against Ballerini had been dismissed in March.

The charges against Nicols also will be dismissed unless he is rearrested before his next scheduled court appearance in October, court records show.

Ballerini said publicity about the arrest damaged his reputation and caused him to miss a job as a charter pilot "to take a celebrity performer to an Air Force base in North Carolina as part of a charity event."

The Police Department and the county declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Ballerini was traveling Tuesday and unavailable for comment, according to his attorney, E. Gordon Haesloop of Mineola.

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