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Mar 7, 2013 10:52 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Lawsuit Reveals That Drug Charges Against Third Accused Felon Were Dropped In Wake Of Probe

Mar 12, 2013 12:57 PM

Court documents in a lawsuit filed against the Southampton Town Police Department have revealed that charges against a third convicted felon were dropped last summer in the wake of a Suffolk County district attorney’s investigation into more than 100 drug-related arrests made by town officers through the Street Crime Unit, the town’s now-defunct drug investigations team.

Drug possession charges against Kwame Opoku, 32, of North Sea stemming from a January 2011 arrest by Southampton Town Police were dropped in July 2012, according to the lawsuit filed against the Town Police and the two officers who were directly connected to the arrest, Officer Eric Sickles and Lieutenant James Kiernan.

According to the lawsuit, Mr. Opoku was arrested at a Noyac Road house by Officer Sickles, a member of the Street Crime Unit. The unit, which was disbanded in 2011, was supervised by Lt. Kiernan and has been at the source of an 18-month investigation by the D.A.’s office.

The suit claims that Officer Sickles planted drugs on Mr. Opoku and lied under oath about the facts of the arrest.

Mr. Opoku remains in prison on drug-related charges stemming from a separate incident, according to State Corrections Department records. He is due to be released in August.

In May 2012, the D.A.’s office dropped drug-releated charges against two other convicted felons, Mohammed Proctor and Bernard Cooks. Both men were released from prison following the dissolution of their cases at the prompting of the D.A.

Like Mr. Opoku, Mr. Proctor and Mr. Cooks had been arrested by Officer Sickles while he was working for the Street Crime Unit.

Mr. Proctor also has filed a lawsuit against the Town Police Department, as has another convicted felon, Craig Chillemi, who was arrested by Officer Sickles.

To date, neither District Attorney Thomas Spota nor his office has discussed what the specific circumstances were that led to any of the dismissals of charges, or the examination of dozens of other Southampton Town Police arrests. But it has since been alleged that Officer Sickles was addicted to prescription drugs and continued on active duty in the Street Crime Unit, despite his direct supervisor, Lt. Kiernan, being aware of his addiction.

Lt. Kiernan and Officer Sickles were both suspended by the Town Board in the wake of the revelations about the Street Crime Unit. Lt. Kiernan has since returned to active duty after a five-month suspension.

The lawsuit by Mr. Opoku was filed on February 7, but Southampton Town Attorney Tiffany Scarlato’s office said this week that they have yet to be served on the case. In October, the Town Board resolved to hire an outside law firm, Devitt Spellman Barrett LLP, to handle the case.

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Oh boy..just what a once dedicated bunch of community "Servers and Protectors"... Needs....
Hopefully those who still strive to do so.. Will one day overshadow this stigma associated with a few of those who wear the uniform...
By kahuna (67), Tampa on Mar 7, 13 11:12 AM
"...Street Crimes Unit. The unit, which was disbanded in 2011, ..." I thought this was done in 2012 By Wilson?

"...To date, the District Attorney’s office has discussed what the specific circumstances were that led to any of the releases or examination of dozens of other Southampton Town Police arrests..." The DA 'has' or 'has not' discussed?
By Toma Noku (616), uptown on Mar 7, 13 1:11 PM
Let's see, 3 cases out of 100 resolved so far.

Hmmmm . . .

97% of the cases TBD?

Let the lawsuits roll.

What a tangled web we weave.
By PBR (4909), Southampton on Mar 7, 13 1:27 PM
Disband these guys!!! It's funny how we are told that is $400 a year on our taxes. This isn't true when you figure in the reirement,lawsuits, and possible settlements against the town. Throw in there the dwi set up of the ex supervisor and you have a mess. Anna Throne Holst is doing a helluva a job in there.lol
By chief1 (2694), southampton on Mar 7, 13 3:00 PM
Chief1,
Once a cop retires, there is no expense to the town. His retirement checks come from the State Retirement that has been funded since the cop started with the town.

The "dwi set up" as you claim occurred in a different jurisdiction.
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Mar 7, 13 3:37 PM
One possible "unintended consequence" here might be that the Town is forced into bankruptcy by many lawsuits, thereby opening the door to a court-supervised renegotiation of its current labor contracts. Its obligations to retirees might also be subject to reduction or cancellation.

Hmmmmm . . .
By PBR (4909), Southampton on Mar 7, 13 5:29 PM
A Special Master could also be appointed to run the PD? Don't laugh, stranger things have happened.
By PBR (4909), Southampton on Mar 7, 13 5:35 PM
PBR,
A municipal retiree receives his or her checks from the New York State Retirement System. Funds are contributed by the employee and employer throughout his or her employment by the town. Once a person retires, the town no longer contributes to the retirement system on behalf of that employee.
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Mar 7, 13 5:34 PM
Thanks, I was using a generic broad brush to make the point that all obligations would be on the table.
By PBR (4909), Southampton on Mar 7, 13 5:37 PM
1 member liked this comment
Most municipal employees contribute 3% of their salaries for ten years into the NYS ERS, after that the entire cost is paid by the employer-in some Police departments, notable the SCPD, the entire cost over the cops career is paid for by the employer/taxpayers. I don't know what the STPD contribution allocation is but it would be interesting to know.
By bayarea (46), hampton bays on Mar 8, 13 12:35 PM
It depends on the retirement plan. There are 6 tiers that I know of, and within each there are differences.
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Mar 8, 13 12:39 PM
Who gives a crap about anything other then this dude should be staying put in Jail. He's there on other drug charges and coming out in august? He'll be back in quicker then you can say September....Always worried about who's getting paid what...unreal
By 1640sWhaler (73), Sag Harbor/Easthampton on Mar 7, 13 11:51 PM
Another local news outlet states that Southampton Town received notification that the charges were dropped and this person was suing the town on 10/10/12.

The town settle with LT Kiernan afterwards as documented in "Lieutenant Is Headed Back To Work" dated 10/25/12 . He goes back to work... no demotion, not fired and becomes the "head of the patrol division" (documented in "Board Members Say Female Officers Were Not Discriminated Against" 2/27/13)

There were no apparent consequences ...more
By OU812 (161), East Quogue on Mar 8, 13 12:26 AM
So just what is the current Southampton Town Board going to do about this? Its seems to me that the politically connected officers who were involved in dubious law enforcement practices have suffered no sanctions from the Town Board. That's nice, now the taxpayers are forced to pay for these lawsuits because the Town Board cannot do their jobs. Nice.
By crusader (390), East Quogue on Mar 8, 13 7:54 AM
New article out last night is related.

http://www.27east.com/news/article.cfm/General-Interest-Southampton/455677/Ex-Police-Chief-Defunct-Street-Crime-Unit-Office-Was-Strewn-With-Drugs-Cash
By PBR (4909), Southampton on Mar 8, 13 10:03 AM
Article updated.

The plot thickens.
By PBR (4909), Southampton on Mar 12, 13 8:37 PM
"Kiernan, who was suspended between May and November, pleaded guilty in October to administrative charges of "incompetency or inefficiency" and "conduct which brings discredit upon the department" in a plea agreement with the town, according to the documents.
He admitted to four of 32 charges he had been facing, including failing to immediately report a prescription drug-addicted officer who was on the drug unit, and giving a false statement to internal affairs investigators, according to a ...more
By OU812 (161), East Quogue on Mar 13, 13 4:07 AM
Two more convictions dropped per "Tuesday" source. No comment by Pearce or Spota.
By PBR (4909), Southampton on Apr 17, 13 9:24 AM
Quote here:

http://www.27east.com/news/article.cfm/General-Interest-Southampton/458450/Southampton-Supervisor-Callls-For-Investigation-Of-Police-Department
By PBR (4909), Southampton on Apr 17, 13 9:26 AM