Woman files civil rights complaint against police

02/21/2013 10:00 AM |

The wife of a convicted Greenport drug dealer has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Southold Town Police Department, alleging that officers made racial remarks as they twice raided her home, once without a warrant.

The town’s felony drug case against Julie Jackson, 48, was dismissed in November after police had failed to produce a search warrant more than nine months after she was arrested along with her husband, Jeffrey, whose criminal case was also dropped, according to a transcript of the court proceeding.

Ms. Jackson is now seeking $3 million in damages in a lawsuit she filed on behalf of herself and her 15-year-old son, who was detained during the raids but never charged with a crime, according to the complaint filed Jan. 23 at Eastern District Court in Central Islip. The suit alleges Ms. Jackson suffered psychological and emotional trauma after police detained her for 24 hours and charged her with felony drug possession and misdemeanor marijuana possession. Southold Town and police officer Kenneth Richert are also named as defendants in the suit, along with three unnamed law enforcement officers listed as “John Does 1-3.”

Attorney Alex Kriegsman of Sag Harbor, who is representing Ms. Jackson in the civil suit, said the identities of the other officers involved are not known to his client. A former federal prosecutor, Mr. Kriegsman said the two raids are unlike any he’s witnessed in more than 25 years of practicing law.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” Mr. Kriegsman said. “This is the USA in 2012 and police entered their home and arrested them without a warrant.”

Mr. Jackson, 50, who pleaded guilty after being arrested on drug charges and was sentenced to probation following the first raid in June 2011, did not join his wife in the civil suit, Mr. Kriegsman said.

Southold Town police and members of the East End Drug Task Force first raided the Jackson home on Broad Street in Greenport early on the morning of June 3, 2011, according to the complaint.

Ms. Jackson said she was in her undergarments brushing her teeth in a bathroom around 6 a.m. when a masked man entered the home with a gun and a flashlight and told her to “drop everything and get down on the floor,” according to the complaint.

Task force members, accompanied by a police dog, searched the home for more than two hours while the Jacksons and their son remained handcuffed, according to the complaint. After task force members left, the suit alleges, Mr. Richert and three unnamed officers continued to search the house.

“Defendant officers spent the next several hours, until at least 11:30 a.m., trashing and destroying plaintiffs’ belongings, while keeping plaintiffs in handcuffs,” the complaint reads. “Defendant officers destroyed family heirlooms, including but not limited to scratching, cracking and breaking antique glass and wooden bowls.”

At one point during the search, the complaint alleges, officers donned Mr. Jackson’s jackets and hats and “paraded around the house mocking and imitating him, laughing and taking pictures.”

Ms. Jackson also claims in the lawsuit that after she told police certain documents they may have ripped and destroyed were related to a mortgage application, “officers laughed and suggested that black people could not qualify for mortgages.”

“They said black people are on Section 8 and they said it repeatedly,” Mr. Kriegsman told The Suffolk Times this week.

Attorney Frank Isler, who is representing all defendants in the suit, did not return a phone call seeking comment for this story. The woman who answered the phone at his Riverhead office said he was out of town this week. Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley could also not be reached and Supervisor Scott Russell declined comment.

Following the June 2011 raid, police said in an official statement at the time, Mr. Jackson was charged with third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell, narcotic criminal possession of a controlled substance in the fourth degree, criminally using drug paraphernalia in the second degree for using drug scales in his home, criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree and unlawful possession of marijuana. Police also seized a substantial amount of cash, according to a report about the criminal case previously published in The Suffolk Times.

Law enforcement officials at the time said the raid provided information that led to the arrests later that month of seven other suspected drug dealers on the North Fork.

Attorney Susan Menu of Riverhead, who represented the Jacksons in their criminal proceedings, sent a letter to Southold Town Police on July 22, 2011, stating that the officers’ behavior during the 2011 search was “abusive and destructive,” according to the civil suit.

Mr. Jackson was on probation on Feb. 17, 2012, when police raided the Jacksons’ new home on Main Road in East Marion and searched the premises, again making racial remarks, Mr. Kriegsman said. Following the second raid, Mr. and Ms. Jackson were both charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance, according to a previous report about the arrest in The Suffolk Times.

Court transcripts show that the charges were dismissed with prejudice in Southold Town Justice Court on Nov. 30, 2012, after an assistant district attorney stated that no warrant had been filed in relation to the search.

“There was no return ever filed on this warrant,” assistant Suffolk County district attorney Lane Bubka told Justice William Price, according to the transcripts. “I did reach out to the detectives assigned as well as the Narcotics Bureau and still, to this date, nothing has been filed.”

Ms. Menu said Ms. Jackson had to be transported to the hospital twice due to “blood pressure issues” while police held her for more than 24 hours after the second incident.

“This isn’t a joke,” Ms. Menu said. “This was serious. She could have died that night.”

Ms. Menu called the second raid “harassment, pure and simple.”

The town was served the civil suit on Jan. 30, records show, and has since been granted an extension of time to file an answer to the complaint. The deadline to answer is now March 22.

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