An East Hampton couple has filed a $5 million lawsuit claiming they were illegally arrested and mistreated by East Hampton Village police while demonstrating for gay rights near a 2012 Mitt Romney fundraiser.
David Fink and Simon Kinsella, of Wainscott, filed the civil rights suit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Central Islip. They name the village, the police department, the mayor, the police chief and seven police officers -- only three of whom are identified -- as defendants.
Fink, 67, and Kinsella, 44, claim police harassed and arrested them in front of more than 100 attendees at a fundraiser for then-presidential candidate Romney because they are gay and were advocating for the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people. The event was at The Creeks, the estate of business magnate Ron Perelman.
Village police said in 2012 that Fink and Kinsella were arrested after trying to sail their boat through a line of marine patrol officers on Georgica Pond.
David Arntsen, an attorney with the Smithtown law firm Devitt Spellman Barrett LLP, who is representing the village, said Tuesday that village officials had not been served. He declined to comment on the case.
Fink and Kinsella say they were flying a rainbow flag and displaying a cardboard sign that read "Freedom to Marry for all Americans" from their sailboat Trumpeter on July 8, 2012. They were about 2,000 feet from Perelman's estate, according to the suit.
Fink and Kinsella claim East Hampton Village Police Sgt. Jeffrey Erickson, who was in plainclothes, approached them in a small metal boat and told them "the pond is closed" without identifying himself as a police officer. Fink and Kinsella say they were not sailing in the village's jurisdiction at the time.
When Fink asked why they couldn't sail in the pond, Erickson responded "because I told you so and that is all of the authority I need," according to the suit.
Fink and Kinsella claim Erickson later rammed their sailboat as they were maneuvering toward the eastern shore of the pond. Erickson then took control of their vessel, according to the suit.
Fink had stepped off the boat into shallow water, the suit says, when four unnamed police officers charged into the water, ripped his shirt and "held his head underwater for an unreasonable period of time while stepping on his back."
Kinsella called 911, but Erickson snatched the phone and threw it into the bow of the sailboat, according to the suit. Kinsella told the officers they were violating the couple's First Amendment rights, and Erickson said, "You have no rights," according to the lawsuit.
Officers lifted Kinsella off the boat and put him in a police car, the suit says. Fink and Kinsella were each charged with disorderly conduct, obstructing governmental administration and resisting arrest, but the charges were later dismissed, the lawsuit says.
Their arrest record prevented them from attending a meeting they had scheduled at a later date with President Barack Obama, according to the suit.
Fink, who says he has a history of heart problems, also claims in the suit that he felt sick but was denied medical attention for about two hours at police headquarters.
Frederick Brewington, the Hempstead attorney representing Fink and Kinsella, said Wednesday that "The matter has been filed and is proceeding following its filing."