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Suffolk to pay $3M in suspect's 2005 death

Suffolk County will spend $3 million to settle a federal lawsuit in the 2005 death of a Mastic man who was arrested on a marijuana charge, then thrown against a bench in a holding cell and left untreated with a head injury for several hours.

The settlement in Scott Eriksen's death was reached shortly before a scheduled trial on May 11, but came to light Tuesday when a resolution to borrow the money came before the county legislature's budget committee.

"It's an absolute tragedy for a 20-year-old portrayed as a kind and loving young man," said Anthony Grandinette, the attorney for Eriksen's estate. "There's not enough money -- as any parent knows -- that could ever make this family whole." Grandinette said the family declined to comment. County Attorney Christine Malafi did not return calls.

Eriksen was driving with his younger brother, Gary, in June 2005 when he was stopped by deputy sheriffs in Bohemia for an expired registration and then arrested for having marijuana in the car, police and court records say.

Gary Eriksen, in an affidavit, said a sheriff's deputy grabbed his brother by the throat in a Central Islip holding cell at 6:15 p.m., and threw him down, causing his head to hit a bench. The deputy, Edward Simovich, in his deposition, said he shoved Eriksen into the cell after he tried to hit him and they fell together, with Eriksen hitting the bench.

The state Commission of Correction in a 2007 report found deputies should have called for help immediately when they saw Eriksen was bleeding and asking them for medical aid. When that help finally came two hours later, he was drooling and shaking, according to the commission report. He was declared brain-dead that night and removed from life support two days later.

In making the settlement, deputy county attorney Dennis Brown told lawmakers the county made no admission of fault or wrongdoing. However, legislators expressed concern, saying the sheriff should review procedures and hold those responsible accountable.

"If we're paying that kind of money I'd like to make sure some corrections are being made so we don't get sued again," said Legis. Edward Romaine (R-Center Moriches).

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