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Jul 11, 2012 11:55 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Lawsuit Claims Town Police Planted Evidence And Filed False Reports

Jul 11, 2012 1:31 PM

An imprisoned felon and convicted drug dealer has filed a $1 million civil rights lawsuit against three Southampton Town Police Department officers, saying the officers harassed him, planted evidence and falsely arrested him because he was dating one of the officers’ daughters.

In the lawsuit filed in federal court this week, the plaintiff, Craig Chillemi, accuses Town Police Lieutenant James Kiernan, Officer Eric Sickles and Detective Thomas Tully of having conspired to harass him and falsely arrest him in an effort to end his relationship with Det. Tully’s daughter, Tara Tully.

The suit claims that Officer Sickles, who was suspended by the Southampton Town Board this week and is facing charges of having been high on drugs while on duty, arrested Mr. Chillemi on two different occasions in 2007 and again in 2009. In the first arrest, which resulted in Mr. Chillemi pleading guilty to selling narcotics and receiving a four-year prison sentence, the suit claims that he and four other occupants of a Southampton home, including Ms. Tully, were arrested by members of the Street Crime Unit, the now disbanded undercover drug investigations team that Lt. Kiernan commanded and Officer Sickles and Det. Tully served on.

The suit alleges that when Lieutenant Kiernan saw Ms. Tully being arrested he removed her handcuffs and that she was ultimately never charged. Shortly after the raid, the suit alleges, Officer Sickles met with Ms. Tully and offered to have the charges against Mr. Chillemi dismissed if she would stop dating him, with a caveat: “Officer Sickles threatened Ms. Tully and offered to dismiss the charges against [Mr. Chillemi] in exchange for the opportunity to date Ms. Tully,” the text of the complaint filed by Mr. Chillemi’s attorney, Thomas Telesca, in federal court this week reads.

Town Attorney Tiffany Scarlato said on Wednesday morning that the town has still not been served with the lawsuit and could not comment on any of the claims it makes.

Mr. Chillemi pleaded guilty to the charges against him and was sentenced to prison. In 2009, after being paroled on the previous charges, Mr. Chillemi continued dating Ms. Tully, according to the lawsuit, and was again arrested by Officer Sickles, this time on the claim that he was violating the terms of his parole by driving a car, even though Ms. Tully had actually been driving at the time they were pulled over. The lawsuit says Officer Sickles used the circumstance of the unlicensed driver charge to justify a search of Mr. Chillemi’s pockets, and that the officer planted drugs on Mr. Chillemi, who claims in the lawsuit he was not in possession of any cocaine at the time Officer Sickles claimed to have found the drugs in his pocket.

The lawsuit goes on to allege that Officer Sickles again attempted to use the charges against Mr. Chillemi to get Ms. Tully to end her relationship with him.

“At the time of [the] arrest, [Officer Sickles] knew that the alleged charges would result in a violation of [Mr. Chillemi’s] parole,” the suit reads. The suit claims that Det. Tully conspired with Officer Sickles to pursue Mr. Chillemi and that Lt. Kiernan, as the supervisor of the Town Police’s Street Crime Unit was complicit in framing Mr. Chillemi as well.

Mr. Chillemi is currently in prison on an unrelated charge from a later arrest.

The Street Crime Unit was disbanded last year by Town Police Chief William Wilson, and two convicted felons, both of whom had been arrested by Officer Sickles and Lieutenant Kiernan, were released from prison after a petition by the Suffolk County district attorney’s office earlier this year because the “credibility” of the evidence used to convict them had been called into doubt.

Lt. Kiernan was suspended in May on disciplinary charges related to his command of the Street Crime Unit and his handling of Officer Sickles’s alleged abuse of prescription drugs while on duty. The suit says that Officer Sickles, who was suspended from the force indefinitely on Tuesday afternoon, is currently in a drug rehabilitation program.

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So it begins.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jul 11, 12 1:02 PM
1 member liked this comment
Wow....I was wondering how long it would take for someone to sue the Southampton Police. They have had a bad name for a long time. Looks like their crooked tactics are finally catching up to them. Too bad the taxpayers will ultimately have to pay for out-of-control police officers.
By MJD0615 (2), Holbrook on Jul 15, 12 7:38 PM
1 member liked this comment
Let the Summer Games open up a new fiddle section!

Are the costs of ALL possible litigation Re: the SHT PD "Street Crimes Unit" already written into the Town budget? Hmmmm.

Is the Town's insurance going to cover ALL the costs of litigation? Including damages, punitive damages, attorneys fees, and so forth?

Can you spell "Municipal Bankruptcy?"

Have a good summer!


PS -- You can't make this stuff up.
By Nero (301), Sag Harbor on Jul 11, 12 1:16 PM
This guy is in prison for an unrelated charge? The cops are real scumbags in this town but this guy with the lawsuit sounds like a winner
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jul 11, 12 4:47 PM
1 member liked this comment
Am I reading this correct? Sickles hit on Tully's daughter.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Jul 11, 12 4:54 PM
Is this the same "Tara Tully" I saw on MySpace?

If "Rock Star" is the game...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jul 11, 12 11:03 PM
Sadly, the entire SHTPD will be tainted by a few bad apples that may have violated law. Although suspended, they have not yet been convicted. If they are found guilty they should be fired immediately. Most SHPD officers are hard working and do not deserve to work under a cloud of suspicion which they have been subjected to. The SHTPD reputation is kaput and the residents have no faith in their ability to enforce the law without prejudice. The only way to restore it is to weed out the corruption ...more
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Jul 12, 12 9:00 AM
1 member liked this comment
The truth is Tom Tuly has never had a good relationship with his daughter, not all the years I have known her. So much so, I don't think he would put his neck out for her at all. To Tara, father of the year, he never was. Tara is a tragic train wreck, an amazingly beautiful girl, gifted, but drawn to people like Craig Chillemi. If anyone sees fit to give that piece of garbage a dime, its just show you what depth this society is falling to. He is a criminal drug dealer, who prays on the weaknesses ...more
By thetruthis??? (2), eastport on Jul 15, 12 12:34 AM