After Riverhead settles, defendants win suit

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The Field Day stage days before the planned event in Calverton.

Five months after Riverhead Town voted to pay $1 million to settle its end of the nine-year-old Field Day lawsuit, a jury has ruled in favor of the remaining defendants in the case.

Court officials said there is currently no order requiring the Field Day concert promoters to pay legal fees to Suffolk County and New York State and that the jury on May 1 simply ruled against Field Day and in favor of the municipalities.

The promoters had sought more than $30 million in damages from the various municipalities that declined to approve the proposed 2003 rock festival in Calverton.

Riverhead Town and its police chief, David Hegermiller, were removed as defendants in the case in December after the town agreed to pay Field Day $1 million as a settlement to end its involvement in the case.

“We didn’t pay the full $1 million,” Supervisor Sean Walter said Friday. “We paid $250,000 and our insurance company paid the rest.”

He said with legal fees going at about $25,000 per week for outside counsel, the town probably would have spent close to $250,000 had it not settled.

Field Day LLC and AEG Live LLC filed the lawsuit in May 2004 against Suffolk County, Riverhead Town, New York State and numerous officials and departments within those municipalities after a proposed three-day music festival at the Enterprise Park at Calverton slated for June 17, 2003 did not receive the necessary approvals.

Field Day, which would have featured popular artists like Radiohead, the Beastie Boys and Beck, never took place at EPCAL because the county refused to provide police protection and the town said it didn’t have enough police officers of its own, which resulted in the county health department denying Field Day a mass gathering permit.

It eventually was moved to Giants Stadium in New Jersey as a one-day event on short notice, but had poor attendance due to heavy rains that day.

Town officials never officially approved nor denied the music festival, but instead held a press conference a few days before the concert was scheduled to start and announced that they would not issue the permit.

The lawsuit named Riverhead Town as a defendant and town police chief Chief Hegermiller personally, claiming his request for 150 more officers from the Suffolk County police department was not based on any standards or requirements found in the New York Mass Gatherings Laws.

While the town was removed as a defendant, several town officials still were called to testify in the eight week trial, which began on March 20 and ended on May 1. Among those called to testify were Chief Hegermiller, former Supervisor and current Town Attorney Bob Kozakiewicz, and former town attorney Dawn Thomas. Former town councilman Chris Kent also testified, although Mr. Kent was not in office at the time Field Day was proposed and was representing the concert promoters as a private attorney at the time.

Field Day was one of two large music festivals proposed for EPCAL that summer. The other, Bonnaroo Northeast, also featured big name acts, but it canceled after Field Day failed to gain approvals.

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