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Dec 12, 2014 3:33 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

East Quogue Woman Awarded $1.112 Million In Damages For 2009 False Arrest Claim

Dec 17, 2014 11:38 AM

An East Quogue woman who was arrested and held for four nights on a misdemeanor trespassing charge after taking photos of a model of a helicopter at the entrance to the Air National Guard 106th Rescue Wing in July 2009 was awarded $1.112 million in damages by a federal jury last week following a trial on her false arrest lawsuit.

Nancy Genovese, 58, filed the lawsuit against Suffolk County and Southampton Town—the latter of which was later dropped as a defendant—in 2009, alleging that she was humiliated and physically abused during her time in County Jail in Riverside, according to a release sent by the law offices of Frederick K. Brewington, which is representing Ms. Genovese.

Ms. Genovese was arrested on July 30, 2009, by Suffolk County sheriff’s deputies after Air National Guard officials said they saw her taking photographs of an out-of-service HH-3E “Jolly Green Giant” helicopter near the entrance of the base at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton. In November 2009, four months after her arrest, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota’s office dropped the trespassing charge following its own investigation of the incident.

The charge was dismissed after investigators determined that Ms. Genovese—who had two registered guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition in her car at the time—had remained inside her vehicle, and off the base’s property, just prior to her arrest, Robert Clifford, a spokesman for the DA, wrote in an email at the time.

“This is a positive determination by a smart jury that heard the evidence, reasoned through the facts and the law, and came up with a fair and appropriate decision,” Mr. Brewington said on Tuesday.

The federal jury awarded Ms. Genovese $1.112 million to compensate for her being incarcerated, but was hung on the amount of punitive damages that she should also be receiving. That amount could be set at a later date, according to Mr. Brewington.

“The fact that they could not make a determination on punitive damages should be an indication to the county that this type of mistreatment at the hands of sheriffs will not and should not be tolerated,” he added.

A representative from the Suffolk County sheriff’s office did not return multiple calls and an email seeking comment this week on the ruling, which was handed down last Thursday, December 11, in U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, in Central Islip.

“We are not involved with this case, so we have no opinion of it,” Cheran Cambridge, public affairs manager for the ANG, wrote in an email on Wednesday morning.

As for Ms. Genovese, she said Tuesday morning that she’s relieved that the ordeal has finally come to an end.

“I’m very happy that it’s over with,” Ms. Genovese said, “especially living in such a small community … I feel like my name has finally been cleared.”

Authorities said they found an XM-15 assault rifle and a shotgun—both registered and unloaded—in Ms. Genovese’s car, and an estimated 500 rounds of ammunition in her trunk, at the time of her arrest. She said she was on the way home from a shooting range in Ridge that evening when she decided to stop and take a photo of the helicopter and upload it to a website that supports American troops.

Ms. Genovese was charged with third-degree criminal trespassing and released four days later from the Suffolk County Jail after posting $50,000 bail. She previously told The Press that she did not realize she was under arrest until she had been questioned without an attorney present for about eight hours.

She explained that she was questioned in public by officers with the Sheriff’s Department, Town Police officers, as well as FBI and officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. She said she was transported to Suffolk County Police headquarters in Yaphank for further questioning and did not realize until 2 a.m. the following morning that she was under arrest.

The eight-day trial spurred by her lawsuit concluded last Thursday, December 11, according to Mr. Brewington’s office.

“If this can happen to me, and officers can abuse their power like this, I can only imagine how other people who are not as fortunate as me have been treated,” Ms. Genovese said.

Ms. Genovese added that for the first time since the incident, she went out and bought a Christmas tree this year and plans to celebrate with her family next week.

“I’m so excited, starting off the new year fresh,” she said. “It feels like a weight is off my shoulders and I can move on with my life.”

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For what it's worth neither of those weapons require any type of registration at all in Southampton town.
By Split Rock (68), North Haven on Dec 12, 14 8:40 PM
Perhaps not in "the town", but don't AR's have to be some sort of 'registered' now?
By The Royal 'We' (199), Southampton on Dec 13, 14 3:50 PM
They didn't then!
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Dec 13, 14 9:16 PM
2 members liked this comment
Brewington is very good lawyer. She was smart to get him.
By oystercatcher (126), southampton on Dec 13, 14 11:34 AM
Typical cop behavior. Lucky she wasn't killed...
By Arnold Timer (327), Sag Harbor on Dec 13, 14 3:03 PM
$1.1 million horribly? Where do u think that money comes from.
By realistic (472), westhampton on Dec 14, 14 7:59 AM
It should come from the Police pension fund
By 27dan (2854), Shinnecock Hills on Dec 15, 14 12:05 AM
2 members liked this comment
Major Williams (ANG): signs located next to the helicopter read “the use of cameras or video equipment is prohibited,”

How much of this windfall will the "The American Resistance Movement" receive?
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Dec 14, 14 8:20 PM
Major Williams (ANG) may be the controlling authority on the ANG portion of Gabreski Airport, but he has no standing on the County Road running past it.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Dec 15, 14 9:36 AM
Sorry Frank, this doesn't smell right, and it never has. She was actually on the green around the helicopter, and it's not the "public entrance to the airport". It's the personnel entrance for a Federal airbase with armed guards, and signs are posted as to what conduct you may not engage in. She was smiling in her mugshot. That never smelled right either.

Though what she did was idiotic, it does not excuse the alleged conduct of the Sheriff's office. The MPs treated her quite fairly ...more
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Dec 15, 14 10:12 AM
2 members liked this comment
They put signs on roller coasters "Ride at Your Own Rick." This sign may or may not have been enforceable. Given that the HH-3E is an old and obsolete and is plainly visible from the road would lead me believe the rational was a bit weak. Was the sign officially placed there by the Reserve Commanders in charge? Could the sign be seen at night and was it big enough to read. All questions raised by the DA I am sure. Common sense probably prevailed.

Juries usually hear ALL sides of any ...more
By John GORMAN (4), Hampton Bays on Dec 19, 14 1:10 PM
Good for her
By 27dan (2854), Shinnecock Hills on Dec 15, 14 12:04 AM
How are things going down at ft. Bragg?
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Dec 17, 14 12:07 PM
2 members liked this comment
What a joke this is what is wrong with America! For 1.1 million you can stick me in jail for a year!
By baymen728 (3), hampton bays on Dec 26, 14 9:50 PM
1 member liked this comment