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Nassau deposits $11.5M with court to pay strip search claims

This aerial view shows the Nassau County Jail

This aerial view shows the Nassau County Jail in East Meadow. Credit: / Kevin P. Coughlin

Nassau County obeyed a federal judge’s order to deposit $11.5 million with the clerk of the court to pay claims from inmates illegally searched upon admission to the county jail from 1996 through 1999, but the county plans to continue to fight the decision.

County Attorney Carnell Foskey said in a statement Friday that Nassau will appeal the order and the merits of the 1999 class action-lawsuit to the U.S. Supreme Court — though chances are slim that the country’s highest court will review the 17-year-old case.

U.S. District Court Judge Denis Hurley ordered the county to deposit the money by Aug. 15 after the county lost its appeal of his 2014 decision that found Nassau had violated the rights of inmates charged with nonviolent, non-drug related misdemeanors by strip searching them on entrance to the East Meadow jail.

County officials said they took the $11.5 million from Nassau’s litigation fund, created this year to pay court judgments.

Manhattan attorney Robert Herbst, who filed the first claim against the county over strip searches and subsequently filed the class-action lawsuit in 1999, said Friday, “We’re going to make as much of an effort as we can to try to find people after all these years. They are entitled to money.” Inmates who were unlawfully strip searched are each entitled to $500 for the loss of human dignity. They can make separate claims for emotional distress.

Herbst still has not been compensated for his 17-years of work on the case though he noted that Hurley had filed his intention to order the payment of legal fees from the deposited money. “This has been a labor of love,” Herbst said.

Former inmates who think they are owed money for the county’s actions can call a toll-free number, 877-933-1295, to see if their name is on the list.

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