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Sini failed to fix 'corrupt culture,' $160 million federal lawsuit alleges

Samuel White has filed a $160 million wrongful

Samuel White has filed a $160 million wrongful prosecution lawsuit in federal court. Credit: Courtesy Samuel White

A man acquitted of manslaughter last summer in a Bay Shore resident's death filed a new complaint in his $160 million civil rights lawsuit that alleges Suffolk District Attorney Timothy Sini failed to fix the "corrupt culture" of his predecessor.

Samuel White’s federal lawsuit also claims Suffolk authorities falsely arrested and maliciously prosecuted him as part of a “culture of corruption” that was exposed by ex-District Attorney Thomas Spota’s own criminal conviction in December.

First filed in March, it contends authorities built White’s prosecution on a faulty indictment and then fabricated evidence aimed at framing him as a killer.

On July 22, White’s lawyer filed an amended complaint that added Sini, along with the Crime Laboratory at the Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s Office and one of its employees, Helen Wong, as defendants.

“Sini knew of the corrupt culture Spota created and continued it. He continued the culture of corruption by failing to remedy it after knowing it existed,” the filing said, while also accusing Wong of deliberately delaying work on exculpatory DNA evidence in White’s case.

Citing the pending litigation, a spokeswoman for Sini said Tuesday that his office wouldn’t comment.

Last July , a Suffolk jury found White not guilty in the 2016 death of Edwin Rivera after a fist fight outside a Huntington bar that was recorded on surveillance video.

White, then a Brentwood resident, claimed self-defense during a trial in which Suffolk prosecutors didn’t contest that Rivera, 39, had instigated the violence.

On Tuesday, Rivera’s two daughters reacted to White’s newly amended lawsuit by calling it “absolutely disgusting” as they continued to mourn a father with “a passion for cars and a big heart” who had owned a transmission rebuilding business in Deer Park.

“It’s honestly upsetting that someone who literally got away with killing a man … is now trying to sue the same county that has given him his freedom,” Sienna Rivera, 21, of Lake Wylie, South Carolina, and Alexis Rivera, 23, of Bay Shore, said in a statement.

“All we want for our father is for him to be at peace since we clearly aren’t getting any justice and Samuel filing this lawsuit is not it.”

White’s attorney, Stephanie McClure, didn’t respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

An attorney for Spota, Anthony La Pinta, called the lawsuit “a classic frivolous action” and said adding parties to it won’t change its eventual dismissal.

“Plaintiff and counsel should be held accountable for this waste of time and money,” he added.

White’s original federal complaint listed Suffolk County, along with its police department, district attorney’s office and Spota among defendants. He also initially sued detectives Ronald Tavares and Michael Milau and assistant district attorneys Laura Newcombe and Daryl Levy, all of whom were part of the case against him.

A Suffolk county spokesman didn’t immediately comment on the amended complaint Tuesday after county officials previously declined to comment on the initial filing of the lawsuit.

But records show Suffolk Assistant County Attorney Brian Mitchell in May filed a response to White’s initial complaint on behalf of the two detectives that said in part that they “acted reasonably and in good faith” in their duties.

Testimony at White’s trial showed Rivera’s ex-girlfriend, Valerie Holloway, texted and called him to say she was out with another man. Then Rivera arrived and confronted White as the couple as they left the bar, starting a dispute that ended with Rivera suffering deadly blows.

White’s lawsuit alleged Holloway set him up for what was actually a robbery and that Rivera, who had cocaine and alcohol in his blood, ripped a gold necklace off him after charging at him.

The plaintiff’s filing also says that when he went to report the robbery, police arrested him before ignoring evidence of his innocence and Holloway’s guilt in Rivera’s death.

The lawsuit alleges Tavares “manipulated and coached” Holloway while taking a statement.

It also claims prosecutors intentionally didn't let Tavares testify at White's trial because "they knew he would be subjected to cross-examination regarding his lengthy history of fabricating evidence and obtaining false statements."

The lawsuit cited three felony cases that involved Tavares in which charges were dropped or convictions thrown out — two of them murder cases.

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