A former Nassau County police detective is in court today asking New York’s highest court to “shield him from having to pay $300,00 or more for costs associated with a malicious prosecution lawsuit “that was filed a few years back. Under certain circumstances, an officer of the law may be indemnified from having to personally pay damages and/or attorneys’ fees in connection with a lawsuit when acting within the scope of their employment. But, the Nassau County Police Officer Indemnification Board believes that this former officer behaved negligently and should be responsible for covering the fees he has been asked to pay.
Here’s how this case managed to get to this point.
Back in 2005, Raheem Crews, who was only 19-years-old at the time, was wrongfully accused and arrested for a robbery that took place two months prior. Nicholas Lemma, who was the lead detective on the case, failed to take into account that when the robbery actually occurred, Crews was locked up inside the Nassau County Jail in East Meadow on another charge. According to News Day, Crews spent 125 days in jail despite Lemma finding out just five days after arresting him that he had made a mistake.
Crews decided to hire an attorney and filed a lawsuit against Lemma.
After the lawsuit was filed, Lemma admitted in a deposition that instead of acting on the information, he decided to keep it for himself. He stated, “Let the chips fall where they may.” Lemma was eventually charged with official misconduct and pleaded guilty to a noncriminal violation. And while Crews demanded $2.5 million, a jury awarded him $175,000. He also requested that he be compensated for his attorney’s fees which were as high as $300,000. Lemma’s defense lawyer stated that the county should be held liable for the damages as well as the fees Lemma incurred when he hired his own lawyer.
Lemma’s lawyer also argued that any fees that were required to be paid should be done so with taxpayer money. The lower courts ruled that Lemma wasn’t entitled to be covered by taxpayer dollars simply because his conduct was considered to be a “negligent act.” Lemma fired back by filing suit in an attempt to overturn that decision. His lawyer stated that “the law mandated a police officer must be indemnified as long as he was acting “within the scope of his employment” and doesn’t hinge on whether he was acting “correctly” or inappropriately.”
Lemma was expected to present his arguments today at the state Court of Appeals.
Like Crews, there are many individuals living in Albany and other cities in New York who are mistreated by police, wrongfully arrested, and even charged with crimes they simply didn’t commit. And if you ever find yourself faced with these circumstances, it is best that you hire an Albany criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Not only can they help prove your innocence, but like Crews’ defense lawyer, they can help you collect compensation for the damages incurred. Although Crews wasn’t able to recover the amount he initially demanded, he was able to get something out of being wrongfully arrested and forced to spend months behind bars for a crime he never had any engagement in.