By Steve Plunkett
Former Ocean Ridge Vice Mayor Richard Lucibella will sue the town and at least one of the officers who arrested him in an October 2016 shooting incident at his home, one of his lawyers told a Palm Beach County circuit judge.
Lucibella believes, “among other claims,” that Officer Nubia Plesnik “used unnecessary force, that he was wrongfully arrested, that he was injured, and that as a result of his wrongful arrest he was divested of his business interests and forced to resign from his government position,” lawyer Laurie Adams says in a document filed in the civil case Plesnik brought against him.
But Lucibella said the statement was primarily a counterclaim to Plesnik’s lawsuit.
“To date, I have not consulted with any attorney regarding taking action against the town,” he said.
Lucibella, who is set to go on trial this month on felony charges of resisting arrest with violence and battery on a law enforcement officer, asked that Plesnik’s lawsuit be postponed until the criminal trial is over.
Lucibella has pleaded not guilty to both felony charges and a third, misdemeanor charge of using a firearm while under the influence of alcohol. Judge Charles Burton has blocked off four weeks for the criminal trial, which is scheduled to begin Oct. 23.
Plesnik, fellow Officer Richard Ermeri and Sgt. William Hallahan went to Lucibella’s home last Oct. 22 after neighbors reported hearing gunshots. They confiscated a .40-caliber handgun and found five spent shell casings on the backyard patio.
Lt. Steven Wohlfiel, their supervisor, was with Lucibella, and both men were “obviously intoxicated,” the officers said. Police later determined the confiscated handgun belonged to Wohlfiel.
Plesnik’s lawsuit against Lucibella claims he intentionally pushed and injured her. Her lawyer said she can perform all her duties as a police officer but continues to feel pain in her shoulder.
Lucibella has a $10 million insurance policy for personal liability protection. He resigned as vice mayor and town commissioner in December.
The lawsuit put Lucibella in a legal Catch-22 situation, defense lawyer Adams said. If it were to proceed, Lucibella would want to use his Fifth Amendment privilege to not jeopardize the criminal case.
But under court rules, he must file his counterclaims against Plesnik when he first responds to her lawsuit, and making a counterclaim would allow her lawyers to compel him to answer questions.
“Essentially, the defendant is placed in the position of choosing between two constitutional rights,” Adams wrote.
Circuit Judge Cymonie Rowe had not ruled on the postponement request prior to The Coastal Star’s deadline.
Lucibella’s criminal defense attorney, Marc Shiner, has previously said that his client was wrongfully arrested.
By Steve Plunkett