The NYCLU filed this lawsuit on behalf of an environmental advocate who was targeted by police and unlawfully arrested in retaliation for publicly criticizing Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro’s economic development policies and opposing his reelection. Edward Kerry Sullivan, a longtime Staten Island resident, is executive director of the Natural Resources Protective Association (NRPA), a non-profit environmental advocacy organization that has opposed Molinaro’s efforts to commercially develop the Stapleton Homeport, an abandoned naval base on Staten Island’s North Shore that had been slated to become a public park.
In early August 2009, Sullivan mailed letters to numerous public officials about the Homeport controversy and published a letter in the Staten Island Advance calling on residents to express their dissatisfaction over the issue when they vote. Several days later, Sullivan was unlawfully arrested and handcuffed outside his home on Aug. 11 by two NYPD officers, allegedly for writing “The Jerk” on the corner of an illegally posted Molinaro campaign sign. The officers who arrested him said they had been following Sullivan for several days and that he had made “enemies upstairs.” They also attempted to delay his original court date for more than three months – until after the Nov. 3 election. The District Attorney’s Office dropped the charges.
The arrest left Sullivan, who was waiting for a liver transplant, physically exhausted. Fearing further reprisals, he refrained from criticizing Molinaro despite the 2009 election and Stapleton Homeport’s sale to a New Jersey developer. The lawsuit, filed on Dec. 16, 2009, names the City of New York and the two police officers who arrested Sullivan as defendants. It maintains that defendants violated Sullivan’s rights under the First, Fourth and Fourteenth amendments; the New York State Constitution; and New York common law.
E.D.N.Y., Index No. CV09 5482 (direct)