Four Hagerman firefighters who were arrested by Riverhead Town police following a brawl at East Wind Caterers in Wading River on March 3, 2018, are now suing the town in federal court for more than $1 million in punitive and other damages.
The lawsuit was filed May 29 by Thomas Dunham, his sons Andrew and Brendan Dunham, and Corey Citarella, all of East Patchogue, in U.S. District Court. It names as defendants the Town of Riverhead; town police Sgt. Brian Gleason, who has since retired, and Officer Giuseppe Rossini; and Robert and Christina Kraham of Kings Park, whose wedding reception took place at East Wind on the same day as a Hagerman Fire Department installation dinner.
Thomas Dunham, currently the chief of the Hagerman Fire Department, was tried individually and was charged with resisting arrest and second-degree obstructing government administration. He was acquitted on the resisting arrest charge and convicted by a Riverhead Town jury of second-degree OGA following a trial in late March 2019.
Mr. Citarella and Andrew and Brendan Dunham were tried together in a separate trial in July 2018. All three were charged with third-degree assault and Andrew Dunham was also charged with second-degree harassment. A town jury found all three men not guilty of all charges.
Suffolk County assistant district attorney Blythe Miller said in court that the fight started between female members of the wedding party and women who attending the fire department dinner, when a member of the latter group stepped on a bridesmaid’s dress while trying to get past her on the stairs. Ms. Miller said in court that Mr. Kraham tried to break up the fight and was punched in the face by Brendan Dunham. But Mr. Kraham was unsure in court when questioned as to who threw the first punch in the melee, and video showed that he kept jumping back into the fight.
“I was unconscious for about 30 seconds,” he said. Mr. Kraham suffered a broken nose, a concussion and other injuries and was taken to Peconic Bay Medical Center as a result, he said in court.
But in court papers filed in district court, the firefighters claim that the arrests were based on “alleged and/or coerced statements” from Mr. Kraham. They claimed the information used to support the arrest was “false and/or misleading.”
While in custody, the lawsuit says, Thomas and Andrew Dunham remained in handcuffs and were pushed to the ground, while Thomas Dunham, “due to the restraints placed upon him and the lack of care exercised by [Officer] Rossini, struck the ground first with his head and followed by other parts of his body.”
The lawsuit said Andrew Dunham was handcuffed and pepper sprayed and “struck about his body” while in the “confined space of the East Wind vestibule.”
Mr. Citarella and Brendan Dunham were both held overnight by police, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit claims excessive force, unreasonable search and seizure, violation of due process, physical pain and suffering, emotional trauma and suffering and loss of liberty.
Riverhead Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said she hasn’t seen the lawsuit and thus could not comment.