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Jul 14, 2010 12:00 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Kabot DWI hearing to continue next week

Jul 14, 2010 12:00 PM

A second day of pretrial hearings focusing on former Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot’s DWI arrest last year ended on Tuesday without a decision on whether or not police video of her arrest in Westhampton Beach last Labor Day could be used as evidence during her upcoming trial.

Reached on Tuesday evening, after the second day of hearings had already concluded, Bill Keahon, Ms. Kabot’s attorney, acknowledged for the first time that he believes that more than three minutes of footage missing from the tape was deliberately deleted by police. As part of his case, Mr. Keahon is arguing that Ms. Kabot, who, as town supervisor, was at odds with the Southampton Town Police Benevolent Association, was targeted by police in her early morning arrest on September 7, 2009.

Mr. Keahon said following proceedings on Tuesday that he believes the arresting officers deleted the portion of the recording to hide something, though he would not say what he believes was on the deleted segment of tape.

On Thursday, the first day of the hearing, Westhampton Beach Police Officer Ryan Lucas, who arrested Ms. Kabot, testified that the footage in question is missing because he shut off the video recorder in order to review the tape and check the time of the stop, which occurred a few minutes before midnight on Sunday, September 6, 2009. Some audio is also missing from the tape, and Officer Lucas said that occurred because, at some point during the arrest, he had removed his external microphone.

Westhampton Beach Police Lieutenant Trevor Gonce, who is the only person who can transfer arrest videos from the hard drives in the police cruisers to a computer in Police Chief Ray Dean’s office and burn copies of the videos onto CDs, testified that he did not believe the footage could be edited.

“That I wouldn’t know,” Lt. Gonce said when Mr. Keahon asked if frames from the video can deleted from a the disk with any number of computer programs. Lt. Gonce added that he is not familiar with any program like that, but added that he cannot edit video on ICOP Digital, the recording system used by Westhampton Beach Police.

Anthony Baron and Joshua Shapiro, the Suffolk County assistant district attorneys assigned to Ms. Kabot’s case, are arguing that the three-plus minutes of video are not missing because “missing implies that it was created in the first place,” Mr. Shapiro said.

The pretrial hearing, which started last Thursday, July 8, and continued Tuesday in Riverhead Town Justice Court, is now scheduled to resume at 2 p.m. on Monday, July 19, and, if necessary, at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, July 20. Riverhead Town Justice Allen Smith made the decision to extend the hearing after listening to two days of testimony from the two officers.

Lt. Gonce was also the subject of a dramatic turn of events last Thursday, the first day of the hearings, when Justice Smith cleared the courtroom after Lt. Gonce testified that he signed two conflicting affidavits accounting for the people he talked to the night of Ms. Kabot’s arrest. Lt. Gonce stated that he made a mistake when filling out the first form and signed the second one to correct his statement, explaining that he was tired from working an overnight shift the day he signed the first one.

In October, Justice Smith ordered all members of the Westhampton Beach Police Department to sign sworn affidavits stating whom they were in contact with on the night of Ms. Kabot’s arrest. Mr. Keahon has previously stated that someone called current Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, who was challenging Ms. Kabot at the time for town supervisor, on the night of the arrest and said “we got her.” Ms. Throne-Holst went on to defeat Ms. Kabot in the November election.

The purpose of the pretrial hearing, in part, is to determine whether or not the tape of Ms. Kabot’s arrest last September will be admissible as evidence during her upcoming trial. It will be up to Justice Smith to decide on the admissibility of the tape as evidence. The hearing is also intended to review other evidence, including the affidavits signed by police officers.

While questioning Officer Lucas on Thursday, Mr. Keahon pointed out that a memo had been circulated in the police department by Chief Dean about three months prior to the incident, stating that officers are never to turn off their video cameras. Officer Lucas, after being pressed by Mr. Keahon, said he must have signed the memo, but that neither he or Officer Steven McManus, who assisted with the arrest, discussed it before turning off the camera.

The arrest video itself shows Ms. Kabot driving south on Sunset Avenue and, at one point, her drivers’ side tires cross over the double yellow line. Then, the tape shows her failing to fully stop at a stop sign at the intersection of Sunset Avenue and Main Street before making a left turn onto Main Street. She then proceeds to drive around pedestrians who are crossing the street before drifting from her lane a second time.

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