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Suffolk DA Spota sued in case linked to Southampton police probe

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota on Sept.

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota on Sept. 20, 2013. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

A Southampton man whose 2011 drug conviction was vacated amid a probe of the Southampton Town Police Department has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota and his office.

Kwame Opoku was one of seven people whose convictions were overturned at Spota's request in 2012 and 2013 following revelations that Officer Eric Sickles, a member of the department's disbanded Street Crime Unit, was addicted to prescription drugs from 2010 to 2011.

Opoku's suit, filed May 1 in Central Islip, alleges prosecutors withheld information about Sickles' drug addiction and seeks unspecified damages and attorney fees.

A Spota spokesman did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday, but John Nonnenmacher, Opoku's Manhattan-based attorney, said his client spent more time in jail because Spota's office did not turn over material related to Sickles' addiction.

"They failed to tell my client's attorney that Eric Sickles was addicted to drugs," Nonnenmacher said.

In February 2013, Opoku, 32, filed a separate federal lawsuit against the town, the police department and various officers alleging Sickles and other officers performed warrantless searches, falsely arrested him, fabricated evidence and gave false testimony.

Jeltje DeJong, an outside attorney representing the town in the first suit filed by Opoku, said Sickles was present at the search but was not the arresting officer. She added that officers had a search warrant.

"Any allegations with regard to wrongdoing by any police officer, including Eric Sickles, is false, and I guess we'll find out about it when we go to trial," DeJong said.

Southampton police arrested Opoku and three others on drug possession charges during a January 2011 raid of a Southampton home. Opoku served six months in prison before a judge overturned his conviction in July 2012, according to the lawsuit.

The suit also alleges that police planted drugs on Opoku and "assaulted and battered" him before arresting him. Representatives for the town have denied those charges.

Southampton Town Attorney Tiffany Scarlato declined to comment on the new lawsuit.

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