Former Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot may not be a particularly good driver, but the tape made by Westhampton Beach Village Police on September 6, 2009 turned out to be all the evidence she needed to be acquitted of DWI charges.
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The tape opens with a view of Kabot's car driving through the streets of Westhampton Beach. She is driving normally – at one point she straddles and appears to cross the center line; at another point she makes a rolling stop, perhaps not coming to a complete halt. But these are narrow streets, as locals know, and many of us would admit in a candid moment to driving the same way. At any rate, it is important to remember these are traffic infractions not an indication of drunk driving. If police think otherwise, it becomes a Constitutional issue - the citizenry has every right to expect our officers to assume we are responsible citizens, just as the police have to right to investigate if they do not.
The police followed Kabot for an inordinate amount of time without pulling her over. Why? The prosecuting attorney said the officers were giving the driver the benefit of the doubt - we suspect they ran a registration make on her, established who she was, and radioed superiors to ask what do to next.
When she was finally pulled over, the tape reveals, Kabot is questioned, though we can't see her face. She speaks normally, however. There would appear no further reason to question her, unless she smelled of alcohol – she admitted to having one or two glasses of wine during the previous four hours.
She is asked to exit the car and perform field sobriety tests – though an officer is standing in front of the camera, obstructing our view. At one point Kabot notes it's difficult to do the tests with two-inch heels on, and asks permission to take them off. She does, effortlessly balancing on one leg while removing each shoe. She seems to perform fine on the tests, which entail walking while placing one foot in front of the other and so on. The tape, inexplicably, is missing four minutes. In retrospect, that probably is more telling than police let on.
Oddly, the arresting officer seemed to have more trouble reading the instructions to Kabot than she has performing the tasks.
The bottom line is the arrest report states she failed all field sobriety tests, and that's clearly not the case. Maybe she didn't smell of alcohol, either. Maybe cops are just trained to repeat the same mantras ad nauseum. Maybe Kabot should have been given a traffic ticket and there was no probable cause to make her get out of the car.
Its time for the Suffolk DA to take a long look at this case, the Westhampton Beach Village Police in general, and the conspiracy to "Get Kabot" especially. Among the things the DA will hopefully look at is the longstanding reputation of the WHB officers for being overly aggressive and nasty to citizens. The fact that the village pays them and their chief inordinately high salaries can only be attributed to the stupidity of the board members and the naivete of the voters who elect them, especially since at any given time there always seems to be a couple of suspended cops drawing full pay.
That the average WHB cop makes double what a veteran NYC officer makes is beyond ridiculous – it shows a callous disregard for taxpayers that borders on the criminal. When a cop making $130,000 year gets put on the witness stand barely a year after a seminal event transpires and repeatedly mumbles "I don't remember" under oath to questions embarrasses the entire law enforcement community, and certainly the village populace. Also questionable is why a cop – in this case the then Southampton PBA head Patrick Aube - is calling Town Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst, who was running against Kabot, in the middle of the night. Shouldn't such calls be reserved for the chief, and made in dire emergencies only? Not coincidentally, Throne-Holst is a strong supporter of the police union, and Kabot wanted to trim the department's staff levels. It should be noted after she was elected supervisor, Throne-Holst refrained from cutting police staffing despite the weakened economy.
Missing from the tape is the bystander who was arrested for interfering with Kabot's arrest – he was allegedly berating the police, they said. The Independent reached the man in another state a week later, and he was reticent to say a word about the incident. Had he been threatened, or did someone promise him charges would be dropped if he said nothing to the newspapers?
Let's tell it like it is. The fact that Kabot was an enemy of the Southampton PBA almost certainly comes into play here. We were told anecdotally the word was out to police departments all over the area to "nail her" if the opportunity arose.
Locals know pulling over a town supervisor (and subsequently arresting her) is an unheard of event in these parts -- almost as rare as a police officer's wife or kid getting arrested for DWI. Are we saying some people around here get special treatment? Duh . . . ya think?
Looking the other way, though, is not nearly as egregious as setting someone up. We have said from the outset we smelled a rat, or in this case rats. Now it's Kabot's turn. Obviously, she has a massive lawsuit – the arrest might have cost her the election.
The district attorney needs to come back into this case as well, but with a fresh perspective. The word has been out for a long time that this was a set-up. If so, everyone involved needs to be punished, and hard. If our police officers are so vindictive as to do this to a politician, what assurances do we have this isn't being done to our citizens?
Our prediction has become a reality. Linda Kabot is coming back, and she's bringing hell with her.
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