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DA seats grand jury in town police probe

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota, outside

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota, outside the Suffolk County Legislature Building in Hauppauge. Credit: James Carbone

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota has empaneled a grand jury in Hauppauge as part of a criminal investigation into record-keeping and related matters by the Town of Southampton Police Department, according to a subpoena released by Southampton Town.

Last week, investigators from the district attorney's office seized several boxes of documents from Southampton Town Hall related to the police probe.

The records consist of seven boxes containing "every confidential personnel police investigation from the police department from the years 1990-2009," according to paperwork filed with the subpoena.

The Suffolk DA's subpoena, issued to the town's custodian of records on May 7, requests copies of all records transported from the police department to Southampton Town Hall on May 13, 2011, along with logs of who had access to the records. A spokesman for Spota declined to comment.

Several days before the D.A.'s office took police records, the town board called an unscheduled meeting and suspended town police Lt. James Kiernan for 38 days in connection with an unspecified personnel matter.

It is not clear whether Kiernan's suspension is connected to the district attorney's investigation. Records show he made $156,461 last year.

In another matter, federal court records show the town last June settled a case in which police officials were charged with a "cover-up" after the arrest of an East Quogue man.

The man, David Kruk, was paid $10,000 by the town and Suffolk County to settle charges that former town police officials attempted to intimidate him from filing a lawsuit after he was detained by police in 2009, according to the records.

Kruk claims town police officials attempted to "intimidate" him from filing suit in which he charged he was wrongly held by police after an improper stop by gun-wielding officers in plain clothes. The town paid $5,000 of a total $10,000 to settle the case.

In his suit, Kruk said he was driving in Southampton when he was stopped by three women with police badges and guns. When they refused to identify themselves, Kruk drove off and called Southampton police.

A town officer arrived, arrested Kruk and put him in a police car for 30 minutes, his suit charged. Kruk was later released uncharged.

When he attempted to find out who the women were, police officials withheld the information and "intentionally misstated the incident to cover up the three female defendants' wrongdoing," his complaint said.

Kruk also charged that former Southampton Town Police Chief James Overton and another official contacted him "seeking to suppress and cover up the incident and intimidate" him from hiring a lawyer and suing in civil court. Overton declined to comment on the Kruk case but said, "There was no cover-up or intimidation."

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