Suffolk County legislators were taken aback last week when they were asked to authorize bonds of nearly a half-million dollars for a federal brutality lawsuit involving the county jail — in which the plaintiff was awarded only $30,000.
The suit involved a 2007 incident in which prisoner Robert Houston said he was punched and kicked at the Riverhead jail, improperly put on suicide watch and deprived of his due process rights.
Lynne Bizzarro, deputy county attorney, said the borrowing figure was so high because the court also awarded the Manhattan law firm of Houston, Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen and Hamilton, which represented Houston, $426,000 in legal fees. Bizzarro said the firm originally sought fees totaling nearly $1 million, but Suffolk persuaded the judge to reduce the number by more than half.
“When the injured party is getting a pittance and the attorneys are reaping hundreds of thousands of dollars, something is wrong,” said Legis. Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore). “And its wrong because it’s the taxpayers who are taking it on the chin.”