Nassau County police allegedly behaved like the mob when they arrested a Roosevelt man to try and coerce him into changing his testimony in an election case last year, a lawsuit claims.
The 43-page federal suit claims that when ex-commissioner Thomas Dale ordered the arrest of Randy White, a campaign worker, at the request of campaign donor Gary Melius, they and others allegedly tried to use the criminal justice system to coerce him into changing his testimony, which was damaging to Melius’ candidate. That, the suit claims, constitutes racketeering—the civil version of a criminal charge prosecutors typically use against the mafia.
“They treated him like John Dillinger…because politics played a role here,” Frederick Brewington, White’s attorney, told reporters Friday during a news conference at his Hempstead office. “They were trying to suborn perjury.”
The civil rights lawsuit, which seeks $46 million in damages, also alleges that the 30-year-old man’s arrest involved abuse of process, unlawful search and seizure, selective enforcement, conspiracy to violate rights, negligence as well as assault and battery.
Besides the ex-top cop and Melius—the Oheka Castle owner who survived being shot in the head in February—the suit also names the county, police department, sheriff’s department and two former police supervisors who were involved in the arrest: Ex-Chief of Detectives John Capece and Sgt. Sal Mistretta, who served White with a subpoena while in custody. At least nine others who were believed to be involved but have yet to be identified may be sued later.
A spokesman for the sheriff’s department, which runs the county jail, where White was held, directed a request for comment to the county attorney’s office, which declined to comment, citing pending litigation—same as the police department. Dale, Capece and Mistretta could not be reached for comment.
“It’s ridiculous,” Melius told the Press.
Dale ordered White’s arrest in October at Melius’ request after White’s testimony in an election lawsuit effectively threatened the re-election campaign of Dale’s then-boss, Republican Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano.
Melius originally wanted White arrested for perjury after White testified in an elections lawsuit that he was paid per signature while petitioning for ex-Freeport mayor Andrew Hardwick—a third-party county executive candidate who Melius funded amd Nassau Democrats argued was trying to siphon votes away from their candidate, Tom Suozzi, who Mangano had unseated four years prior.
Although police found insufficient evidence for the perjury charge, they stopped a county bus to arrest White for not paying a $250 unrelated fine for previously selling bootleg CDs. White was repeatedly strip searched and was taken to county jail before being taken to court—which, according to Brewington, is excessive. Typically, arrestees are held overnight at local precincts or police headquarters before facing a judge, he said.
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, a Democratic candidate for Congress, cleared Dale, other police officials and the Mangano administration of criminality. But, her office has said that the investigation into Mistretta, who has since retired, is continuing. Mangano fired Dale when presented with Rice’s findings.
“I felt like I was public enemy No. 1, like I was a terrorist or something the way they were treating me,” said White, who noted that he was repeatedly asked about Hardwick while in custody. “I just felt violated.”