HEMPSTEAD, NY —The Law Offices of Frederick K. Brewington has announced that U.S. District Court Judge Joseph F. Bianco has denied a Nassau County officer’s request to be granted full immunity against the firm’s client’s amended complaint and his motion to have the complaint dismissed. The judge ruled that the officer’s reliance on a Supreme Court case does not allow him to escape his misconduct and subsequent perjury and he will not be given immunity for all his wrongful deeds and limited the scope of the dismissal.
On October 9, 2004, Nassau County Police Officer James Vara pulled over the firm’s client, Darryl T. Coggins. Although he was not justified in stopping Mr. Coggins, Officer Vara attempted to manufacture facts that Mr. Coggins was intoxicated. When the officer began to physically accost Mr. Coggins, Mr. Coggins objected, telling the officer that he did not need to grab him. The officer placed his hand on his gun and said, “I’ll do more than that.” Fearing for his life, Mr. Coggins ran from Officer Vara. At that time, Officer Craig Buonora pulled up and Officer Vara told him to shoot at Mr. Coggins. Later that day, Mr. Coggins contacted an attorney and surrendered to police. He was charged with two counts of felony unlawful possession of a weapon and spent two days in jail. Bail was set at $10,000.00 cash and $25,000.00 bond. A conviction under Penal Law §§ 265.02(3) and/or 265.02(4) carries with it a potential penalty of two (2) years to seven (7) years incarceration.
On March 17, 2005, the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office indicted Mr. Coggins on those false serious felony charges. Mr. Coggins argued the officers knowingly falsified police reports, affidavits and memo books; fabricated evidence; and committed perjury during grand jury proceedings. Based on records and conflicting testimony, the DA’s Office was forced to dismiss the criminal charges against Mr. Coggins, and Officer Buonora was indicted for perjury, for which he pleaded guilty. Officer Vara testified against Officer Buonora.
Faced with waves of motions by the Defendants in his civil rights lawsuit, Mr. Coggins filed a Third Amended Complaint, alleging in detail that the two officers’ conduct violated his civil rights. Citing the Supreme Court case of Rehberg v. Paulk, Officer Buonora brought yet another motion to dismiss, claiming he and Officer Vara were entitled to immunity from such legal action. On December 2, 2013, Judge Bianco ruled that, although the two officers should be granted immunity, they lied under oath in grand jury testimony and falsified their police reports. The decision to dismiss was limited to just the area of the case dealing with the false testimony given in the Grand Jury, for which there was a conviction of perjury, and denied the motion to dismiss as to the bulk of Mr. Coggins’ other Federal and State law claims.
Representing Mr. Coggins in this case were Frederick K. Brewington, Founder, and Valerie M. Cartright, Senior Associate, The Law Offices of Frederick K. Brewington.
“We are very pleased with the judge’s decision,” Mr. Brewington said. “The Court makes it clear that in light of Rehberg, it is compelled to decide the issue of immunity on the very narrow point of testimony in the Nassau County Grand Jury. However, as to all the other major claims and facts, the Court has denied the defendant’s motions. Of note is the Court’s evaluation of all the other lies and wrongful acts done by Officers Vara and Buonora and how those acts are clearly not subject to immunity coverage.”