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May 11, 2011 9:57 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Kabot's Attorney Says Westhampton Beach Police Violated Her Civil Rights

May 11, 2011 10:18 AM

Though he doesn’t believe his client was targeted by Westhampton Beach Village Police prior to her DWI arrest in September 2009, the attorney now representing former Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot said her forthcoming lawsuit will suggest that her title and adversarial relationship with the Southampton Town Police Benevolent Association might have played a role in how she was treated during the traffic stop.

“It certainly played a big enough role for her to have her civil rights violated,” said John Ray, who owns the John Ray and Associates law firm in Miller Place, after he filed a notice of claim against Westhampton Beach Village—and six police officials—on May 3. “She should not have been arrested and should not have been handcuffed.”

Furthermore, Mr. Ray added that his client was “abused” during the questioning process, although he stated that he had no indication that she was physically mistreated by the two arresting officers, Westhampton Beach Village Police Officers Steven McManus and Ryan Lucas, or other police officials. Officers McManus and Lucas are two of the defendants listed on the notice of claim, which is a precursor to a lawsuit. The other defendants include the Village of Westhampton Beach, Village Police Chief Ray Dean, Lieutenant Trevor Gonce and Police Officers Mark Yakobowski and Jeffrey Platt.

Mr. Ray said the lawsuit that he intends to file in the coming weeks—which will seek “considerable monetary damages,” though he declined to divulge a figure—will argue that Ms. Kabot’s civil rights were violated when officers decided pulled her over on Main Street in Westhampton Beach and, after conducting several field sobriety tests, arrested her on Labor Day 2009. He said the suit could be filed within 30 days of the notice of claim.

“The municipality never had a right to deprive Linda of her civil rights,” Mr. Ray said. “The municipality always acts under the cover of law, and there are limits to the power of a local government’s authority. By acting under the cover of law, the municipality did violate her rights.”

But when asked if he believed that there was a conspiracy to arrest his client—a similar defense suggested by Ms. Kabot’s former attorney, William Keahon, who represented her during her DWI trial earlier this year—Mr. Ray emphasized that that would not be an argument in the lawsuit. “New York State does not recognize conspiracy as a defense,” Mr. Ray said.

Ms. Kabot, 43, of Quogue, did not return calls this week.

In February following a jury trial, she was acquitted of three of four charges, including DWI, driving while impaired and failure to maintain her lane of travel. She was found guilty of one charge: failure to stop at a stop sign. She refused to take a Breathalyzer test prior to her arrest.

Westhampton Beach officials, meanwhile, are not saying much about the notice of claim since it was filed last week. Village Board members Joan Levan, Leola “Sue” Farrell and Hank Tucker all declined to comment, and the matter was touched upon only briefly during last Thursday night’s board meeting when longtime village resident Dean Speir, who plans to run for trustee next month, inquired if any action taken by previous board members played a role in the litigation.

“The notice of claim was based on a DWI, and it has nothing to do with any actions by the board,” Village Attorney Richard T. Haefeli replied.

Before last week’s meeting, Ms. Levan directed all questions about the notice of claim to Mr. Haefeli. “I’m not going to comment about any pending litigation against the village,” she said.

Mr. Haefeli said he will not be representing Westhampton Beach in the case, explaining that an attorney would be assigned by the village’s insurance company.

When asked to describe the roles of each police official named in the notice, Mr. Ray declined to offer specifics. “At this point in time, we don’t feel it would be appropriate to comment on allegations made against specific individuals,” he said.

Mr. Ray noted that the village could request a 50(h) hearing, similar to a deposition, where an attorney representing the village would conduct a question-and-answer session with Ms. Kabot. He said he does not know if the village will ask for such a hearing.

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