A jury trial will be held in the case against two Town of Chester police officers being sued by a Warwick man who says the officers harassed him during a May traffic stop.
On Sept. 12, the Southern District of New York at White Plains issued a civil docket in the case that Jeremiah Johnson El brought against officers Robert Bird and Bruce Chambers. Leading up to the federal trial will be the discovery process, when each party can obtain evidence from the other; and a case management conference, when both parties and their lawyers meet with the judge about how to handle the case going forward. The case management conference is scheduled for 10 a.m. on March 13, 2020.
Johnson El is representing himself. Bird and Chambers are being represented by Michael Adam Czolacz and Sheel Patel of Morris Duffy Alonso & Faley, the same firm representing the town of Chester in a gender discrimination lawsuit brought by former town employee Lori Streichert.
Johnson El on July 3 issued a subpoena to Bird, Chambers, and the police department. The officers' legal counsel on Aug. 1 asked the court either to quash the subpoena or order it held in abeyance until the discovery process begins. Judge Cathy Seibel agreed to a suspension while ordering the defendants "to preserve the subpoenaed material if they have it."
Seibel agreed to allow Johnson El to add to his complaint his discovery of a poster put up around town warning the public against him. But, on July 31, Seibel denied Johnson El's application for an injunction and asked him to stop submitting documents.
"This case is about an allegedly unlawful stop and allegedly unlawful tickets," she wrote. "Plaintiff would do well to set aside the gobbledygook and focus on those claims."
'A safety risk'
Johnson El says he is of Moorish nationality. On July 16, according to the docket, he submitted to the court a copy of a 1787 peace treaty between the United States and Morocco. He also sent a letter stating that the Town of Chester Police put up posters around town that caused injury to his reputation and his life.
A poster put up at the Sunoco station on Brookside Avenue in Chester included the following statement below Johnson El's photograph:
"The above listed male is Jeremiah Siddique Johnson El (AKA Jerry Lateek Johnson, Jerry Poindexter, Jerome Johnson). During a recent interaction with TOCP Officers, Jeremiah stated that he was a Moorish National and that the laws of the United States, as well as the State of New York do not apply to him. Jeremiah claims to be a former law enforcement officer and has a current unrestricted (full carry) pistol permit. Jeremiah has also mailed several suspicious packages to Town Offices. At this time Jeremiah is considered a safety risk. Persons coming into contact with Jeremiah are to contact Town Police at (845) 469-9311 for non-emergencies and 911 for emergencies."
At the Sept. 11 town board meeting, police Chief Dan Doellinger told The Chronicle that his officers had not put up the posters, but that he had emailed it to every town employee with an email address. Some highway workers do not have email so they didn't receive the poster, he said.
The manager at the Sunoco station said in July that the police dropped off the poster and then came back a few days later to pick it up.
Johnson El's suit says his guns were confiscated by the Chester police, but Doellinger said this isn't true. He said he couldn't share any more information while the lawsuit is active.
This suit is among three discrimination suits brought against the town of Chester this year. In addition to Streichert's suit, the Greens of Chester developers are suing the town for derogatory comments officials made over the past few years against their housing development for Hasidic Jews, and for breach of contract.