Bayman Frank Sloup, 63, of Bay Shore, stands with some...

Bayman Frank Sloup, 63, of Bay Shore, stands with some of his crab traps. (Jan. 17, 2007) Credit: Ken Spencer

A federal jury has awarded $2.1 million in damages to "one of the last of the Suffolk baymen" who sued the Town of Islip and two of its former officials, claiming that they vindictively drove him out of business.

The jury at the federal court in Central Islip agreed Tuesday that bayman Frank Sloup's civil rights were violated starting in 2004 when the town said that 41 of his crab traps and buoys were a hazard to navigation and had to be removed from Champlin Creek, according to court papers and Sloup's lawyer, A. Craig Purcell of Stony Brook. The waterway leads from the Great South Bay to a town dock.

Sloup maintained that his fishing gear was on the side of the creek, well out of way of boat traffic, and the town's claim was part of a campaign of harassment that eventually led to his fish catch being limited and his fishing store being foreclosed upon.

The jury agreed with Sloup and awarded the damages against the town and two of its then-bay officials, Alan Loeffler, head of the town's harbor unit, and Craig Pomroy, one of his aides, according to court papers. The jury reached its verdict following a two-week trial and four hours of deliberation, according to Purcell.

"It's a victory for the individual against unnecessary government regulation," Purcell said Wednesday, adding that his client was probably among the last six to eight baymen who attempted to make a full-time living in commercial fishing off Islip.

Purcell said that the town officials had not moved against other baymen but probably had singled out his client because he was the most active and vocal of the baymen.

In addition, Purcell said his client previously had been instrumental in lawsuits that had resulted in rulings that the state, not the town, had the right to regulate commercial fishing in the waters around the Great South Bay. Claiming that Sloup was interfering with navigation was just an excuse to get around the town's inability to regulate commercial fishing, Purcell said.

An attorney for the town, Erin Sidaras, denied that Sloup was singled out for enforcement of navigation safety laws, disagreed with the jury's verdict and said the town plans to appeal.

The attorney for Loeffler and Pomroy, who are no longer with the town, could not be reached for comment.

After his Islip fish store was foreclosed on, Sloup moved to Maryland to try commercial fishing there but has recently moved back to Long Island to try fishing here again, Purcell said.

In a 2007 interview, Sloup said he had been crabbing and eeling with his father and grandfather on the Great South Bay since he was 3 years old, and had gotten his first boat when he was 12.

"I just fell in love with the water," Sloup said then. "I guess it gets in your blood."

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