Mug shot of Mohammed H. Proctor. (May 25, 2012)

Man released from prison filed $50M lawsuit

Originally published: May 29, 2012 8:07 PM Updated: May 29, 2012 10:36 PM By MARK HARRINGTON, STACEY ALTHERR AND SANDRA PEDDIE

A Riverhead man released from prison last week amid a district attorney's probe has claimed in a $50 million lawsuit that cops illegally searched a body cavity and pressured him into signing a false statement.

Mohammed Proctor, whose release was prompted by a Suffolk district attorney review of Southampton Town police cases, says in his 2010 lawsuit filed from the Suffolk Correctional Facility in Riverhead, that in searching him, members of the Southampton police's since-disbanded street-crimes unit forcibly removed a bag of cocaine from his rectum without a warrant, after consulting by telephone with the Suffolk County district attorney's office.

The handwritten suit and later court filings include copies of an April 21, 2010, felony complaint against Proctor, 36, and a supplementary police report that offer contradictory views on how police recovered the drugs from him: The complaint alleges the drugs fell from his pant leg, while the police report said Proctor agreed to remove the drugs from his body.

Proctor also alleged that police illegally searched his car, his mother's car and his 16-year-old son before threatening him in an effort to get him to sign a false statement. A search warrant included in court papers covered only Proctor's home.

"You're going to sign this statement or your son goes to jail for everything [illegal found] in the house," Proctor quoted then-Sgt. James Kiernan as telling him. Proctor said he signed the statement to keep his son from being arrested. Proctor could not be reached Tuesday.

Named in the lawsuit are members of the Southampton Town police street crimes unit, including Kiernan, officer Eric Sickles and Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Andrew Heffernan.

Laura Solinger, who defended Proctor on the drug charges, said she repeatedly informed the Suffolk district attorney's office and State Supreme Court Judge Francis F.X. Doyle about the illegal searches while the criminal case proceeded. "The [Suffolk] DA was not interested in Mohammed Proctor's version of events," Solinger said.

Drug evidence found in Proctor's body was ruled admissible at trial. Proctor pleaded guilty to illegal possession of a controlled substance and was sentenced to 2 to 4 years. He had been in incarcerated since October.

Current Southampton Town Police Chief William Wilson Jr., who disbanded the street crimes unit last year, said he couldn't comment on active cases.

Wilson's office and District Attorney Thomas Spota have begun a probe of Southampton police record-keeping practices and a review of cases conducted by members of the street crimes unit. Last week, Spota's office ordered Proctor and another man, Bernard Cooks, of Southampton, released. In a statement, Spota said last week that "we are duty bound under the law to take this action" in light of findings from his probe.

Spota spokesman Robert Clifford said, "We're absolutely confident that the lawsuit against the DA's office will be dismissed."

Jeltje DeJong, a Smithtown attorney for the Southampton police officers and the town, declined to comment.

State criminal records in the Proctor case are sealed following last week's dismissal, but his federal civil suit is continuing, with a hearing scheduled for Sept. 9.