Lawyer: Wrongful arrest suit against Riverhead Town settled for $350K

08/09/2012 12:00 PM |

FILE PHOTO | The lawsuit accused town police officers of wrongful arrest.

Riverhead Town will pay $350,000 in a settlement of a 1996 lawsuit alleging that town police officers falsely arrested a Riverhead man, the News-Review has learned.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court by Anthony Wayne Smith of Riverhead, names the town along with two police officers, James Lydon and Darren Fulton, as defendants.

The Town Board authorized the settlement during a town board meeting Tuesday, though town officials did not immediately disclose details.

The lawsuit states that on Feb. 1, 1995, Mr. Smith was arrested at a bus stop on West Main Street and Griffing Avenue for “asserting his right to freedom of speech” and goes on to accuse the town police of unreasonable search and seizure, false arrest and imprisonment, unreasonable and excessive force and remanding Mr. Smith for psychiatric tests without cause.

According to Mr. Smith’s attorney, Harry Kutner Jr., who gave a reporter the $350,000 figure, Riverhead police were breaking up a fight on West Main Street when they told a crowd to disperse.

Mr. Smith responded that the crowd didn’t have to disperse and had a right to stay.

Police then arrested Mr. Smith for disorderly conduct and claimed he resisted arrest, Mr. Kutner said.

Mr. Smith claims Officer James Lydon later punched him, and also accused Town Justice Court officials of refusing to set a racially fair cross section to sit on Mr. Smith’s jury.

In the suit, Mr. Smith was seeking $100,000 in punitive damages and $100,000 in compensatory damages on each of 12 counts, for a total of $2.4 million.

Read more in the Aug. 16 News-Review newspaper.

tgannon@timesreview.com