Southampton Town Wins Court Case On 2011 Arrest

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A federal court judge has ruled that there was no misconduct on the part of any Southampton Town Police officer in a 2011 drug-related arrest, and dismissed a lawsuit against the town filed by the defendant in that criminal case.

The plaintiff, Bernard Cooks, had sued the town, alleging false arrest, malicious prosecution and unlawful search.

U.S. District Court Judge Leonard Wexler, in late June, dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that the Town Police—and, in particular, the arresting officer, Eric Sickles—had “more than sufficient evidence” to arrest and prosecute Mr. Cooks for possession of crack cocaine with intent to sell, possession of marijuana, criminal possession of drug paraphernalia, and false impersonation.

Mr. Cooks had been convicted and was serving a prison sentence, but the Suffolk County district attorney’s office successfully petitioned the court to release him after Officer Sickles’s credibility was called into question when he was suspended in July 2012 after spending several months on medical leave related to a dependency he developed on prescription painkillers.

“This case stemmed from concerns about the officer because there was some drug issues,” Southampton Town Attorney James M. Burke said. “That’s where the plaintiffs were trying to draw that information into this case. The judge saw that there was no connection there at all. It was an appropriate arrest.”

After hearing witnesses testify on both sides, the town’s legal counsel, Jeltje Dejongmade, made a motion to dismiss the case, which the court granted.

“The judge’s ruling affirms that our police handled this matter by following proper procedural standards,” Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said.

According to Mr. Burke, the plaintiff can appeal the court’s decision, but the town does not know if they plan to take any further action.

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