BY TRONE DOWD
Details on the personal life of Southeast Queens Assemblywoman Michele Titus (D-South Ozone Park) have surfaced as the result of a recent lawsuit that she filed against New York State.
The 47-year-old assemblywoman—who has represented the neighborhoods of Springfield Gardens, Far Rockaway and South Ozone Park since 2002—and her husband, Eric DeBerry, are suing the State of New York Unified Court Systems for allegedly firing DeBerry without reason. Titus said that the firing inflicted strain on the couple’s relationship in the years to follow.
According to court documents, the lawsuit was filed on Aug. 8 as a result of DeBerry losing his job at the Queens County Supreme Court in Jamaica in 2014. DeBerry, a court officer for 16 years, said that he was wrongfully fired from his job following an incident that he said was not as severe as it was described.
“I am alleged to have said, ‘Shut the f–k up and mind your business,’ to a civilian and I was placed on probation and terminated,” DeBerry said in the court documents.
DeBerry claims that this incident never occurred. Moreover, he says that his alleged actions are negligible compared to those of many of his colleagues. The couple suspects that race played a role in the firing.
“[My employer] terminated me for minor infractions, but treated my white counterparts differently after they were accused of actual crimes,” DeBerry said in the filing.
He then lists four officers—two men and two women—all of whom found themselves in legal trouble, but did not lose their jobs. He claims that one of the men was arrested for stalking, while another officer pulled his gun on two people on the J train while drunk. Meanwhile, the other two women were arrested for buying cocaine from an undercover cop, driving while intoxicated and “crashing into three cars.”
“I view the above actions […] as blatant acts of discrimination,” DeBerry said.
DeBerry’s battle with the Queens County Supreme Court staff is alleged to be a longstanding issue. DeBerry was transferred to the Queens court in 2003, which was one year after Titus won her seat in the assembly. The distressed husband claims that he was bullied by his colleagues, who accused him of only having the job due to nepotism.
In the summons, Titus said that she and her husband “became estranged” as a result of the firing.
“The actions complained of by Mr. DeBerry with reference to his employers affected our marriage greatly,” she writes.
“After dealing with the stress at work, my husband was not pleasant to live with.”
She said that her husband was “always agitated,” “short tempered” and “defensive.” As a result, the couple separated for some time, halting their intimacy as a couple.
The PRESS of Southeast Queens reached out to Rosedale-based attorney Audrey Thomas, who is representing the assemblywoman and her husband. Thomas did not provide a comment in time for print. Attempts to contact the assemblywoman also went unanswered.
Titus said that she and DeBerry are currently working out their differences with hopes of mending the relationship, according to the lawsuit.