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Nine ECBAWM Partners Named to Lawdragon’s “500 Leading Plaintiff Employment & Civil Rights Lawyers” 2022 List

ECBAWM is pleased to announce that nine firm partners have been named to the “2022 Lawdragon 500 Leading Plaintiff Employment & Civil Rights Lawyers” list. The list was created “through nominations and independent journalistic research vetted by peers and adversaries,” legal media company Lawdragon explained on its website.

Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, Andrew G. Celli, Jr., Debra L. Greenberger, Ilann Margalit Maazel, Katherine Rosenfeld, Zoe Salzman, Sam Shapiro, Earl S. Ward, and O. Andrew F. Wilson were each recognized as attorneys “who have dedicated their careers to standing up for our rights in workplaces and in society.”

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ECBAWM Files Civil Rights Lawsuit on Behalf of George Bell, Wrongfully Imprisoned for Over 24 Years

ECBAWM, together with co-counsel Scott Stevenson, has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city of New York and eight former New York City police officers on behalf of George Bell. The suit alleges that as a result of rampant misconduct by the police and prosecutors within the Queens County District Attorney’s Office, Mr. Bell was convicted of a double homicide that he did not commit. Mr. Bell faced the death penalty before being sentenced to life in prison. He was 19 years old at the time of his arrest. Mr. Bell’s conviction was vacated and he was finally freed at the age of 44, having spent over 24 years incarcerated.

During the criminal investigation of the crimes for which Mr. Bell was charged the police pursued Mr. Bell based on an unreliable tip, interrogated Mr. Bell through the night on Christmas Eve, and then brutally beat him until he agreed to falsely confess. After Mr. Bell’s arrest, the prosecution and/or police came into possession of exonerating evidence that they did not disclose to Mr. Bell. This evidence made clear that a local armed robbery gang called Speedstick, not Mr. Bell, had committed these murders, and law enforcement knew it years before Mr. Bell was even tried. Rather than admit that they had the wrong man, police and district attorneys suppressed this evidence and fabricated additional evidence to implicate Mr. Bell. These civil rights violations were part of a pattern of the Queens District Attorney’s Office under District Attorney Richard Brown that has recently come to light and has formed the basis for multiple wrongful conviction claims against the City of New York. When vacating Mr. Bell’s conviction, Queens County Supreme Court Justice Zayas concluded that law enforcement’s handling of Mr. Bell’s case “leaves the distinct impression that the suppression of the [exonerating] information was not an isolated instance of misconduct, but part of a larger pattern of behavior that was calculated to deprive the defendants of fair trials, which is particularly egregious given that the death penalty was being sought against 19-year-old George Bell.”

Mr. Bell is represented by Richard Emery, Earl Ward, Debra Greenberger, and David Berman of ECBAWM, as well as co-counsel Scott Stevenson.

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ECBAWM and Romano & Kuan Win Federal Jury Trial for Client Rendered Quadriplegic by NYPD Officer’s Assault

On April 13, 2022, after a four-day trial, an eight-person jury in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York returned a unanimous verdict finding that the Defendant NYPD Officer Luis Linares assaulted and committed battery against our client Eliezer Lopez when he pushed Mr. Lopez over a railing in the Crotona Park neighborhood of the Bronx in December of 2015. After Officer Linares’s push, Mr. Lopez fell 15 feet and landed on the back of his head, rendering him permanently paralyzed from the neck down. Mr. Lopez died in May 2019 after spending the last three-and-a-half years of his life confined to a hospital bed as a result of Officer Linares’s assault.

At the trial, the jury rejected Officer Linares’s claims that Mr. Lopez jumped over the railing and that he never touched Mr. Lopez. ECBAWM and co-counsel Romano & Kuan marshaled testimony from an expert witness who testified that the nature of Mr. Lopez’s injuries was inconsistent with Officer Linares’s testimony, along with testimony from Mr. Lopez himself and an eyewitness who contradicted Officer Linares’s account. The attorneys also uncovered key discrepancies between Officer Linares’s testimony and that of his fellow officers when questioning them on the stand.

ECBAWM attorneys Earl Ward and Max Selver, together with Julia Kuan of Romano & Kuan, represent the Plaintiff Suhail Laureano, Eliezer Lopez’s wife, who is proceeding as a representative of his Estate. Following the jury’s verdict that Officer Linares committed assault and battery, the parties are preparing for a second jury trial to determine the amount of damages.

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ECBAWM Obtains $8 Million Settlement for Wrongful Conviction Under Queens DA Richard Brown

ECBAWM, together with co-counsel Thomas Hoffman and Joel Rudin, has reached a settlement of $8 million with the City of New York on behalf of Kareem Bellamy, a man who was wrongfully convicted in 1995 and served more than 14 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

Kareem Bellamy was an innocent man charged by the Queens District Attorney’s Office for a 1994 murder in Far Rockaway, NY. During the criminal investigation, the prosecution and/or police came into possession of exonerating evidence that they did not disclose to Mr. Bellamy and fabricated evidence to implicate Mr. Bellamy. The prosecution also engaged in misconduct during Mr. Bellamy’s trial by making inflammatory comments while speaking to the jury. These civil rights violations were part of a pattern of the Queens District Attorney’s Office under District Attorney Richard Brown that has recently come to light and has formed the basis for multiple wrongful conviction claims against the City of New York.

After the New York state court released Mr. Bellamy based on new evidence showing his innocence, Mr. Bellamy sued the City of New York for the constitutional violations that led to his wrongful imprisonment. During this lawsuit, ECBAWM and co-counsel uncovered a document from Richard Brown to top aide Jack Ryan stating, “Jack, I think we’ve been getting away with this sort of thing for a long time.”

Mr. Bellamy was represented by Earl Ward, Ilann M. Maazel, and Marissa Benavides, as well as co-counsel Thomas Hoffman and Joel Rudin.

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19 ECBAWM Attorneys Named to 2021 Super Lawyers Lists

The firm is pleased to announce that 19 of its attorneys have been named to the 2021 Super Lawyers lists.

Firm partners Richard D. Emery, Andrew G. Celli, Jr., Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, Jonathan S. Abady, Earl S. Ward, Ilann Margalit Maazel, Hal R. Lieberman, Daniel J. Kornstein, O. Andrew F. Wilson, Debra L. Greenberger, and Sam Shapiro were named 2021 Super Lawyers.

Firm partner Zoe Salzman and associates Emma Freeman, David Berman, Scout Katovich, Andrew Jondahl, Nick Bourland, Ananda Burra, and Vivake Prasad were named 2021 Super Lawyers Rising Stars.

The Super Lawyers list is issued by Thompson Reuters. A description of the selection methodology can be found on the Super Lawyers website.

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JJ Velazquez’s Sentence Is Commuted After Fighting for His Freedom for 23 Years

On August 17, 2021, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo commuted the sentence of ECBAWM client Jon-Adrian (“JJ”) Velazquez. Mr. Velazquez has maintained his innocence ever since he was wrongfully convicted in 1998 for a murder he had nothing to do with. Now he has been released from prison and reunited with his family, friends, and supporters.

While incarcerated in the New York correctional system for over 23 years, Mr. Velazquez seized every opportunity to learn, support his peers, and give back—all while fighting for his freedom. He emerged as a leader at the Sing Sing Correctional Facility, where, among other achievements, he earned his college degree with honors, founded a youth program to combat gun violence, organized nonviolence workshops for incarcerated people and their families, and led various fundraising efforts to support his community on the outside.

ECBAWM attorneys Jonathan Abady, Earl Ward, Sam Shapiro, and Nick Bourland represented JJ Velazquez in his clemency efforts.

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Nine ECBAWM Partners Named to Lawdragon’s “500 Leading Plaintiff Employment & Civil Rights Lawyers” List

ECBAWM is pleased to announce that nine firm partners have been named to the “2021 Lawdragon 500 Leading Plaintiff Employment & Civil Rights Lawyers” list. The list was created “through nominations and independent journalistic research vetted by peers and adversaries,” legal media company Lawdragon explained on its website.

Andrew G. Celli, Jr., Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, Earl S. Ward, Ilann Margalit Maazel, O. Andrew F. Wilson, Katherine Rosenfeld, Debra L. Greenberger, Zoe Salzman, and Sam Shapiro were each recognized as attorneys “who’ve devoted their careers to helping workers protect their rights.”

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ECBAWM Files Excessive Force Lawsuit on Behalf of Man Paralyzed by NYPD Officers

On June 2, 2021, ECBAWM filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of Peyman Bahadoran, a former Wall Street trader who is now paralyzed from the waist down after being shot by NYPD officers during a non-violent confrontation. As detailed in the complaint, Mr. Bahadoran—who suffers from bipolar disorder—experienced a manic episode on June 4, 2020 outside a Manhattan deli after days of seeing violence between police and Black Lives Matter protesters outside his home near Union Square. NYPD officers on the scene did not even attempt to use non-lethal techniques to subdue Mr. Bahadoran. Instead, two NYPD officers shot Mr. Bahadoran in the spine and left arm. He was unarmed and non-violent at the time the officers shot him. He is now paralyzed and unable to control any body function below his waist.

Security and body camera footage of the shooting have been widely circulated in the news media and confirm that the officers’ force was excessive. “The body camera footage shows clearly that Mr. Bahadoran was unarmed when shot,” said Mr. Bahadoran’s lawyer Earl Ward. “It further disproves the claim by the department that he was ‘reaching’ and ‘lunging.’ He posed no deadly risk and now there’s a bullet lodged in his spine and he may never walk again.”

ECBAWM’s Earl Ward, Jonathan Abady, and Marissa Benavides represent Mr. Bahadoran in the suit.

Read the filed complaint

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ECBAWM Files Civil Rights Lawsuit Against Ocoee and Windermere (FL) Police

Jean Samuel Celestin died unnecessarily at the hands of Florida police officers on April 11, 2019. Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP has filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city of Ocoee (FL), the town of Windermere (FL), four Ocoee Police Department (“OPD”) officers, and one Windermere Police Department (“WPD”) officer, on behalf of Mr. Celestin’s family. The suit, filed along with co-counsel King & Markman, P.A., alleges that Mr. Celestin was deprived of his constitutional rights when the officers physically restrained to him to the point that he lost consciousness and died. Mr. Celestin’s family seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

On April 11, 2019, Mr. Celestin’s mother and sister called 911 to ask for assistance because Mr. Celestin was in a mental health crisis and was expressing delusional thoughts. The road patrol officers, violating standard procedures for interacting with people in distress, treated Mr. Celestin as a dangerous criminal, rather than a mental health patient in need of emergency treatment. Though Crisis Intervention Teams have existed in Ocoee for over 20 years, in order to reduce the risk of serious injury or death during an emergency interaction between persons with mental illness and police officers, the responding officers failed to engage such a team.

The officers also refused to handcuff Mr. Celestin when he offered his wrists in surrender, and tased him multiple times. They also restrained him with a controversial “hobble” restraint, also known as a “hogtie,” which has been known to cause death by positional asphyxia since at least 1995. OPD and WPD officers left Mr. Celestin hogtied and face-down in the grass for almost an entire minute. The coroner’s report indicates that this hogtie was a proximate cause of Mr. Celestin’s death.

“Samuel Celestin is no longer with us for one reason and one reason only: because police officers treated a sick person in need of help like a dangerous criminal who had just committed a violent felony,” said Andrew G. Celli, Jr., an ECBAWM attorney representing the plaintiff. “The failings that killed Samuel are systemic; they reflect inadequate training and the misuse of equipment; extremely poor tactical conduct by the officers—including intentional escalation of a conflict when de-escalation was called for; and an utter failure to assist a person in distress. This case will expose all of that and more.”

Along with Mr. Celli, the Celestin family is represented by ECBAWM attorneys Jonathan Abady, Earl Ward, and Andrew Jondahl, along with Jeremy Markman from King & Markman, P.A. in Orlando, FL. For additional information, see this press release and the complaint.

Press
“Family of man who died after being tased by Ocoee police discusses newly filed lawsuit,” WFTV
“Family suing Ocoee police after deadly encounter,” Fox 35 Orlando
“Police who tased Ocoee man during mental health crisis should face charges in his death, family says,” Orlando Sentinel

 

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Family of Police Shooting Victim Tamir Rice Requests DOJ Re-Open Investigation

The family of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy shot and killed by Cleveland police officers, today requested that United States Attorney General Merrick Garland re-open the Department of Justice investigation into Tamir’s death.

On Saturday, November 22, 2014, Tamir was playing with a toy pellet gun by himself in a park near his house. When Cleveland police officers drove into the park at high speed, there was no one else around and Tamir wasn’t brandishing the toy. Despite there being no imminent danger, Officer Timothy Loehmann jumped out of his still-rolling squad car and fatally shot Tamir.

Security video footage of the shooting contradicts the statements given by the Cleveland police to justify the shooting. The video shows there was no time for Loehmann to give Tamir commands; Loehmann shot him immediately. After watching the video, the Cleveland Municipal Court found probable cause to charge the officers involved, and a grand jury was convened. But then the local prosecutor grossly mishandled the grand jury proceeding in order to exonerate the officers, including actually telling the grand jury they should not indict. In the face of this injustice, at the end of 2015, we requested a Department of Justice investigation into the shooting.

Articles in the New York Times and the Washington Post in October 2020 revealed that Trump political appointees at DOJ had stymied that investigation for years. They twice refused requests by apolitical career prosecutors to present this case to a grand jury. They allowed the clock to run on the statute of limitations for obstruction of justice charges. Finally, in the waning weeks of the Trump presidency, between Christmas and New Year’s, DOJ quietly announced it was closing the investigation entirely.

Attorney General Garland should re-open the investigation and convene a grand jury. There is no statute of limitations on prosecuting Officer Loehmann for killing Tamir in violation of his civil rights.

The essential facts of this case are not in dispute. Tragically, it is also indisputable that race played a defining role in Tamir’s death. As we note in the request to Attorney General Garland, “If these police officers had driven into a park in a wealthy, predominantly White suburb, if the boy they saw sitting there under the gazebo was White—is there any doubt in anyone’s mind that that boy would still be alive today?”

On behalf of Tamir’s family, we are requesting that this case be re-opened and presented to a grand jury without the agenda of exonerating the officers.

We invite you to read our request to Attorney General Garland in its entirety.

ECBAWM partners Jonathan S. Abady, Earl S. Ward, and Zoe Salzman represent the family of Tamir Rice.

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