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Ten ECBAWM Attorneys Named as Super Lawyers; One Named as Rising Star

ECBAWM is proud to announce that partners Richard Emery, Andrew Celli, Matthew Brinckerhoff, Jonathan Abady, Ilann Maazel, Earl Ward, Hal Lieberman, Dan Kornstein, Andrew Wilson, and Elizabeth Saylor were named as Super Lawyers for 2017. Associate Alanna Kaufman was named as a Rising Star. The Super Lawyers list is issued by Thompson Reuters. A description of the selection methodology can be found here.

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Black Intelligence Detectives Bring Federal Suit Over Bias in NYPD Promotions

September 25, 2017 ­­– The law firm of Emery Celli Brinkerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP (ECBAWM) and the New York Civil Liberties Union today filed a federal class action lawsuit on behalf of black detectives who were denied promotions for years within the elite Intelligence Division of the NYPD. For well over a decade the division has maintained a subjective promotions policy, administered by white supervisors, who refuse to promote deserving black detectives.

“Minority communities have for decades distrusted the NYPD, and for good reason,” said Elizabeth Saylor, a partner at ECBAWM and lead counsel for the plaintiffs. “Pervasive discrimination against black detectives only deepens that distrust. The NYPD’s discriminatory culture needs to change.”

The lead plaintiffs in the case are Jon McCollum and Roland Stephens, as well as Sara Coleman, widow of Theodore Coleman. The three detectives each joined the Intelligence Division in 2001 and assisted with the cleanup and investigation of the September 11 attacks. They tracked hundreds of leads and suspects. In spite of their achievements and strong recommendations from their direct supervisors, they were repeatedly passed up for promotion because of their race.

Read the EEOC charge here,  and the EEOC finding here. Also, read the DOJ Right to Sue letter here, the federal complaint here, and a press release here.

To read recent coverage of these detectives’ experiences in NYPD Intel, click here for a news article by New York Times, here for an editorial by the Times, here for ABC, here for Spectrum NY1, here for the NY Daily News, and here for the NY Post.

In August 2018, Elizabeth Saylor was quoted in the NY Daily News discussing this case and new allegations of racial discrimination in the NYPD Intelligence Division, which you can read here.

ECBAWM’s Elizabeth SaylorEarl Ward, and Jessica Clarke, along with Chris Dunn with the NYCLU, represent Sara Coleman, the widow of Detective Theodore Coleman, and Detectives Jon McCollum and Roland Stephens.

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ECBAWM Urges State Department To Seek Justice for Bakari Henderson

ECBAWM urged the U.S. State Department to “deploy all necessary resources and undertake every effort” to seek justice for Bakari Henderson, a 22-year-old African-American U.S. citizen brutally beaten to death in Greece in July.

On the night of July 7, 2017, a group of men chased Bakari from a bar in Zakynthos, Greece, and savagely beat him in the street.  Their motives are not yet known.  Bakari died of the severe head injuries he sustained.  Nine men have been arrested.

Bakari was a recent graduate of the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona.  At the time of his death, he was in Greece working on a new clothing line he was developing.  He had interned for the Texas House of Representatives and State Senate, which honored him after his death.  Bakari’s family and friends remember him as a leader with a voice of reason who was fun-loving, peaceful, and calm.  The Henderson family has created the Travel with Bakari initiative to honor his legacy as a compassionate, friendly, inquisitive, intelligent young man.

ECBAWM represents Bakari’s parents, Phil and Jill Henderson.  On behalf of the Henderson family, ECBAWM urged the State Department to “take all available measures to help ensure the impartiality and thoroughness” of the Greek authorities’ investigation into Bakari’s death.  The letter seeks accountability for “all those who bear responsibility for Bakari’s death” and demands that the investigation “fully explore the attackers’ motives, including any potential bias or hatred.”

ECBAWM attorneys Jonathan S. Abady, Earl S. Ward, and Doug Lieb represent the Henderson family.  To read the letter, click here.

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EEOC Finds NYPD Intel Division Discriminated Against Black Detectives; Sessions’ Justice Department Refuses to File Suit

On March 4, 2016, the EEOC determined that the Intelligence Division, one of the most elite and prestigious divisions within the NYPD, discriminates against African-American detectives. Specifically, it found that “black detectives in general, received lesser and later opportunities for promotion consistent with their qualifications.” Former Intel Detectives Jon McCollum, Roland Stephens, and Theodore Coleman, represented by ECBAWM and the NYCLU, initiated complaints with the EEOC that led to this determination. For five years, the EEOC reviewed data and interviewed countless witnesses before reaching this conclusion. The EEOC then transferred the case to Justice Department, which, under Jeff Sessions’ leadership, refused to file suit.

To read the New York Times’ recent coverage of these detectives’ experiences in NYPD Intel, click here.

ECBAWM’s Elizabeth Saylor, Earl Ward, Eisha Jain, and Jessica Clarke, along with Chris Dunn with the NYCLU, represent Sara Coleman, the widow of Detective Theodore Coleman, and Detectives Jon McCollum and Roland Stephens.

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Tamir Rice Family Expresses Its Outrage at 10 Day Suspension for Officer Involved in Killing of Tamir

The announcement today by the City of Cleveland that the officers involved in the shooting death of twelve-year-old Tamir Rice have been disciplined has only added insult to the pain and grief of the Rice family. Although pleased with the termination of Officer Timothy Loehmann, the decision says nothing about his unlawful actions in shooting young Tamir without cause or justification. Loehmann was terminated not for causing Tamir’s death but rather for lying on his employment application.

The Rice family is disheartened by the decision to suspend Officer Frank Garmback for a mere 10 days where it has been determined that he failed to employ proper tactics when he drove directly up to Tamir thus contributing to the chain of events that resulted in Tamir’s shooting.

Samaria Rice, Tamir’s mother, described the discipline as “deeply disappointing. I am relieved Loehmann has been fired because he should never have been a police officer in the first place—but he should have been fired for shooting my son in less than one second, not just for lying on his application. And Garmback should be fired too, for his role in pulling up too close to Tamir. As we continue to grieve for Tamir, I hope this is a call for all of us to build stronger communities together.”

Tamir’s family is represented by ECBAWM attorneys Jonathan AbadyEarl Ward, and Zoe Salzman, together with William Mills of FirmEquity and Subodh Chandra of The Chandra Law Firm LLC.

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ECBAWM Obtains Acquittal for Man Charged with Murder

On February 3, 2017, after a six year odyssey through the criminal justice system, Cesar Villavicencio was acquitted of murder and released from custody. ECBAWM partner Earl Ward was able to demonstrate to the jury that the medical examiner’s conclusion that the deceased died from strangulation was wrong and, further, that the death was caused by a drug overdose.

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In Retrial, ECBAWM Wins Acquittal for Man Whose Conviction Was Reversed by First Department

In January 2016 Jaime DeJesus, who was serving a 20-year sentence for assault in the first degree, had his conviction overturned by the First Department appellate court. At the request of his appellate attorneys, who believed in his innocence, ECBAWM agreed to handle his retrial. After a five-week trial, the jury deliberated for less than three hours and acquitted Mr. DeJesus of all charges. ECBAWM partners Earl Ward and Elizabeth Saylor tried the case.

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City Agrees to Pay $6 million to Settle Wrongful Conviction Suit

The City of New York has agreed to pay $6 million to Derrick Deacon, a man who spent over twenty years in prison for a murder he did not commit. Mr. Deacon was initially convicted in 1989 as the result of egregious misconduct by law enforcement and prosecutors. After new evidence came to light showing that Mr. Deacon was not the perpetrator, he was granted a retrial and acquitted in minutes. This suit, filed after his acquittal, challenged the official misconduct used to initially convict Mr. Deacon. The New York Daily News covered the settlement here.

ECBAWM attorneys Earl Ward, Andrew Wilson, Hayley Horowitz, and Jessica Clarke represented Mr. Deacon, together with Glen A. Garber, P.C.

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Earl Ward Secures Not-Guilty Verdict for Man Accused of Potsdam Boy’s Murder

After a three-week trial, Oral Nicholas Hillary was acquitted of the 2011 murder of Garrett Phillips, a 12 year old resident of Potsdam, New York.

Hillary’s legal team, led by ECBAWM partner Earl S. Ward and co-counsel Norman Siegel, argued that the lack of evidence against Mr. Hillary mandated that he be acquitted of all charges.  As Mr. Ward stated in his closing argument, “There is absolutely no direct evidence tying Mr. Hillary to this crime. Nick Hillary is not the type of person that would walk into a room, put his hands around the neck of a child and strangle him, kill that child. That is not Nick Hillary.” Judge Felix J. Cantena agreed, finding Mr. Hillary not guilty of all charges.

The New York Times extensively covered the trial, among other media outlets. You can watch Judge Cantena read the verdict here. You can listen to Mr. Ward’s closing argument here.

 

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Unreliable DNA Testing Rejected in Upstate Murder Trial

A New York judge rejected prosecutors’ attempts to use controversial DNA methods in the upcoming murder trial of Oral Nicholas Hillary, who is represented by ECBAWM attorney Earl Ward and co-counsel Normal Siegel.  The August 26 decision is a significant victory for Mr. Hillary, who has maintained his innocence in the 2011 murder of a 12-year-old boy in upstate New York.

Earlier this year, prosecutors stated their intention to use a computer program known as STRmix to analyze a miniscule scraping from the victim’s fingernails, even though previous attempts to link Mr. Hillary’s DNA to the victim were unsuccessful. Mr. Ward and the defense team challenged the reliability of STRmix at two hearings held in July and August. Judge Felix J. Catena for St. Lawrence County Court agreed with the defense that the program lacked validation and ruled that its results are inadmissible.

The trial is scheduled to begin on September 6 in Canton, New York.

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