By Danny Schrafel
The attorney for Huntington’s Daniel Karpen is demanding an order of protection banning the longtime gadfly and environmental advocate from Huntington Town Hall be thrown out.
In court papers filed July 15, Karpen’s attorney, Huntington-based Darrin Berger, demanded the one-year order of protection, issued July 1 by Acting County Court Judge Jennifer Henry to Town of Huntington Public Safety officer John Ramirez, be dismissed or modified so Karpen can attend town board meetings and conduct business there.
The order directs Karpen to stay away from Ramirez’s home and place of employment, which is Town Hall.
“The cumulative effect the prohibitions contained in the Order of Protection issued by this court is to prevent defendant Daniel Karpen from exercising his rights of free speech and free assembly at Huntington Town Hall,” Berger wrote.
Karpen, 66, of Huntington, was arrested before a Huntington Town Board meeting June 17 after he allegedly refused to allow a Public Safety officer to search a bag he brought to the meeting. He is accused of biting a police officer while being handcuffed.
The order of protection was issued July 1, about two weeks after Karpen was arraigned on second-degree assault to an officer, a D felony; third-degree criminal trespass and resisting arrest, both misdemeanors; and disorderly conduct, a violation.
However, Berger argues the order is unconstitutional and a “veiled attempt at suppressing [Karpen’s] rights to freedom of speech and assembly guaranteed to all citizens.”
Because of the order, Berger said Karpen can no longer go to his local seat of government to do personal business, like pay his taxes, or conduct professional business, such as obtaining permits for his work as an engineer.
Berger also argued that the order is improper because orders of protection are “only available to individuals and not places.” He also questioned why it was sought nearly two weeks after Karpen was arraigned June 18.
“Basically, these orders of protection are usually handed down at the time of arraignment,” Berger said. “After the fact, on July 1, without even notifying me, an order of protection was handed down by the court. As far as I’m concerned, his due process rights were violated.
Town spokesman A.J. Carter declined to comment, citing the Suffolk County District Attorney’s involvement in the case.
Before the recent ban, Karpen had been a fixture at Huntington Town Board meetings for more than 30 years.
According to town records cited by Berger, Karpen has spoken at Town Board meetings as early as Nov. 29, 1983 and is a “frequent critic of town policies and environmental procedures.”
Berger conceded Karpen can be “an irritant to the powers that be,” but only “in the sense that dissent can be irritating to the majority controlling the levers of power.” He attached several transcripts of Karpen’s testimony and correspondence to underscore this point.
“It is clear from what has been depicted herein that defendant Daniel Karpen is a brilliant, dissenting voice that is necessary to air alterative choices unpopular to majority rule,” Berger wrote.
A District Court hearing on the order of protection is scheduled for Aug. 5. Karpen’s next court date in his criminal case is Aug. 21.