Former Merchant Marine Kerry Sullivan runs the Natural Resources Protective Association, an environmental group advocating for a cleaner Staten Island, and has vocally opposed Borough President James Molinaro’s attempts to muck it up with development, especially as regards the Stapleton Homeport. He even sent a letter to the Staten Island Advance denouncing handling of the Homeport — and within months of this year’s election, too.
This, Sullivan and the New York Civil Liberties Union contend in a suit against the city and two cops, is really why police arrested him on August 11 — not because he wrote “the Jerk” on a Molinaro campaign poster, as officially contended, but because he had made trouble for the authorities.
Cops came to Sullivan’s house after he made a 911 call — the complaint does not reveal what the call was about; NYCLU’s Jen Carnig tells us she thinks it was about “some low level drug activity” in the neighborhood.
In any event, Sullivan claims the cops didn’t ask him about his 911 call, but did quiz him about a James Molinaro reelection sign Sullivan had found illegally posted on a construction fence at Hylan Boulevard and Tompkins Avenue — replacing his own posters, which he said he had permission to put up.
They showed Sullivan a picture of the defaced poster and asked him if he’d written “The Jerk” on one of the posters. Sullivan answered in the affirmative and was hauled to the precinct.
Molinaro had never reported the illegal Molinaro posters to authorities, NYCLU’s Chris Dunn tells us — they only knew about it because they were following him around. “No question they were following him around,” says Dunn, “and the only explanation for it is [Sullivan’s] advocacy.”
The complaint alleges a lot of other troublesome cop behavior — his wife being pushed, no Miranda, no allowance for Sullivan’s medical conditions, etc. — but the oddest claims is that the officers — PO Edward Ranieri, and an as-yet unidentified Officer “John Doe” — told him they’d been tailing him for four days because he was making “enemies upstairs.”
NYCLU says the city and the cops violated Sullivan’s First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment Rights, etc, and wants compensatory and punitive damages. The complaint also notes that the city had settled with NYCLU on a retaliatory arrest case in 2001 involving Molinaro’s predecessor as Beep, Guy Molinari, for $200,000.
“One expects this sort of thing under a totalitarian regime,” says NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman, “not a constitutional democracy.”