On March 8, the U.S. Department of Justice released a damning report detailing routine constitutional violations by the Louisville Metro Police Department (“LMPD”). Along with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the ACLU of Kentucky, ECBAWM sued Louisville in 2020, alleging that LMPD’s indiscriminate use of tear gas and other military-grade weapons against peaceful protesters violated their First and Fourth Amendment rights. The class-action lawsuit, brought by several named plaintiffs who were subjected to unnecessary force, seeks to bar LMPD from using such weapons at future protests.
Among many other areas of misconduct, DOJ investigated LMPD’s response to the summer 2020 protests following the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. The report found that LMPD had “indiscriminately used force” against peaceful and law-abiding protesters, and used “riot sticks, less-lethal munitions, [and] chemical agents against protesters who did no more than passively resist or disperse more slowly than officers desired.”
The DOJ report also confirms another of the primary claims in the ECBAWM lawsuit against LMPD: “By using force against peaceful protesters without individualized and adequate justifications, LMPD repeatedly retaliated against speech, in violation of the First Amendment.” Attorney General Merrick Garland described some of LMPD’s conduct as “unacceptable” and “heartbreaking.”
“We applaud the Justice Department’s extensive investigation into the LMPD,” said ECBAWM Partner, Sam Shapiro. “Louisville must commit to stop using indiscriminate, crowd-control weaponry that subjects peaceful protestors to unconstitutional uses of force.”
Anthony Broadwater served 16 years in prison and decades on the sex offender registry for a rape he did not commit. Now, New York State has agreed to pay Mr. Broadwater $5.5 million to settle his wrongful conviction claims.
Mr. Broadwater, who is Black, was convicted in a 1981 bench trial of raping author Alice Sebold based on a questionable eyewitness identification and a lineup in which Ms. Sebold, who is White, identified a different Black man. The only other purported evidence against Mr. Broadwater was a microscopic hair analysis, which has since been deemed unreliable junk science by the FBI.
Mr. Broadwater was exonerated in 2021 after his attorneys David Hammond and Melissa Swartz exposed multiple errors that occurred during Mr. Broadwater’s trial. “I’m not going to sully this proceeding by saying, ‘I’m sorry.’ That doesn’t cut it,” said Onondaga District Attorney William Fitzpatrick in 2021 when he agreed to the overturning of Mr. Broadwater’s conviction. “This should never have happened.”
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.”
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.
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.