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Lawsuit Challenges Louisville’s Military-Grade Protest Response

ECBAWM and co-counsel the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. and the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky filed a class-action lawsuit against the City of Louisville, Kentucky, its Mayor Greg Fischer, and several Louisville Metropolitan Police Department (“LMPD”) officials and officers to enjoin the LMPD from using military-grade crowd control weapons against peaceful protesters, and it seeks damages on behalf of several such protesters who have already been harmed by these brutish tactics.

After the killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and so many other Black people who have died at the hands of police, people in Louisville joined in the wave of protests across the country to advocate for an end to racist and violent policing. In response to this courageous exercise of First Amendment rights, the LMPD attacked the peaceful crowds, indiscriminately firing at them with tear gas, pepper bullets, flash bangs, and other military-grade weapons designed for enemy combat. In some cases, officers fired live ammunition into the crowds, striking several protesters. When journalists attempted to document this unconstitutional use of force, officers tracked them down and sprayed them with more pepper bullets and beat them with batons.

“Louisville is using weapons of war against its own citizens,” said ECBAWM partner Sam Shapiro. “It is trying to silence peaceful protestors through unjustified arrests and trumped-up charges. Shockingly, its mayor and the leadership of the LMPD are endorsing this unconstitutional conduct. Our clients are committed to fighting back against these practices. They are bringing this case to make Louisville safe for all peaceful protestors.”

To read the complaint, click here.

To read a press release about this lawsuit, click here.

ECBAWM’s Earl S. WardO. Andrew F. WilsonSam Shapiro, and Andrew Jondahl, along with attorneys from the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. and the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky represent Plaintiffs.

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ECBAWM Client’s Essay on Prison Abuse Published in The Appeal

In his article for The Appeal, “In This Moment of Reckoning Around Police Violence, Don’t Forget the Unseen Abuses of People Who Are Incarcerated,” our client Vernon Horn writes of his firsthand experiences being brutalized while in prison. Mr. Horn served 17 years for a crime he did not commit before being exonerated. We currently represent Mr. Horn in his civil lawsuit against the City of New Haven, three individual police officers, and a Connecticut firearms examiner based on conduct that we allege included fabrication and concealing of evidence leading to his wrongful conviction.

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USA Today Publishes Police Reform Article by ECBAWM Partner Ilann Maazel

In “Seize the moment: 9 ways to curb police brutality and honor the memory of George Floyd,” ECBAWM partner Ilann Maazel writes, “If we translate protests into policy and passion into action, we will honor the memory of George Floyd and begin to address this national problem. If we fail, the next George Floyd, Breonna Taylor or Kenneth Banks is just around the corner.” You can read the full article in USA Today.

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ECBAWM Files Notice of Intent to Sue Police Officers Who Shot and Killed Osaze Osagie

ECBAWM, along with co-counsel, filed a Notice of Claim today on behalf of Sylvester and Iyunolu Osagie, the parents of 29-year-old Osaze Osagie, indicating their intent to sue the Pennsylvania State College Police Department (“SCPD”) and the officers who six months ago shot and killed their then 29-year old son. Sylvester Osagie asked the police to help him find Osaze, so that he could secure treatment for his suicidal son who was suffering a serious mental health crisis. Instead of helping Osaze, an officer shot him three times in the back, killing him.

“The mental health processes in place failed our son. The police procedures also failed our son. And the officers who responded to our son’s apartment failed him as well. We are bringing this case to make sure Osaze is the last person to die under such circumstances,” said Sylvester Osagie.

“Osaze would still be alive today if the police had followed standard procedures for handling mental health emergencies. This tragic loss of life didn’t have to happen; Osaze Osagie did not have to die.” said ECBAWM partner Andrew G. Celli, Jr.

Read the press release and coverage of the filing here, here, here and here.

ECBAWM partners Andrew G. Celli, Jr. and Elizabeth Saylor represent the family along with Pennsylvania lawyers Andrew Shubin and Kathleen Yurchak.

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Jazmine Headley Files Civil Rights Lawsuit Against The City Of New York

Today, ECBAWM client Jazmine Headley filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of New York and its Human Resources Administration (“HRA”) peace officers and New York City Police Department (“NYPD”) officers who attacked and arrested her at the DeKalb Job Center on December 7, 2018.  Simply because Ms. Headley was sitting on the floor waiting for her appointment, these officers brandished a taser in Ms. Headley’s face, forcibly yanked her one-year-old son from her arms, charged her with several crimes, and detained her on Rikers Island for days.  Her experience is just one example of HRA security staff’s widespread abuse of New Yorkers who seek assistance with their public benefits.

Ms. Headley is represented by ECBAWM attorneys Katie Rosenfeld and Emma Freeman.  The Complaint is available here.  A press release about the filing is available here.

To learn more, read coverage from the New York Law Journal, Politico, the New York Post, and Patch.

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ECBAWM Client Files Civil Rights Lawsuit Against The City Of New York for Abuse of Power

Juliet Dietrich—a disabled, 68-year-old former corrections officer—has filed suit against the City of New York and Department of Citywide Administrative Services Special Officer Charles Parker for false arrest and excessive force.

On August 6, 2018, Special Officer Parker pulled her from her car and arrested her over a perceived parking violation. Ms. Dietrich’s permit for her disability allowed her to use spaces designated for “any governmental agency.” Nonetheless, Special Officer Parker was angry that Ms. Dietrich was occupying a parking spot reserved for those associated with the Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. Apparently, an able-bodied member of the Borough President’s administration—David Johnson—had demanded that her car be moved. Special Officer Parker reached into the car, grabbed Ms. Dietrich by the arm and yanked her from the vehicle onto the street. Special Officer Parker then arrested Ms. Dietrich on false charges. Ms. Dietrich had no record. But because of the defendants, she was held in custody for more than twelve hours and then forced to fight false charges against her for nine months. Ms. Dietrich’s case challenges this abuse of power on the doorstep of Brooklyn’s Borough Hall.

Ms. Dietrich is represented by ECBAWM attorneys O. Andrew F. Wilson and Alanna Kaufman.  The Complaint is available here.  An article about the case in the New York Daily News is available here.

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Settlement of Jane Doe’s Lawsuit for Shackling During Pregnancy and Labor: NYPD Will Pay $610,000 and Reform Patrol Guide Procedures

On July 3, 2019, ECBAWM reached a $610,000 settlement in the case of Jane Doe, a 28-year old Bronx woman who was arrested and shackled by the NYPD when she was 40 weeks pregnant, after she was arrested for a misdemeanor on February 7, 2018. NYPD officers and supervisors insisted on keeping Ms. Doe in shackles for approximately thirty hours, even while she was in active labor and during her post-partum recovery with her infant daughter at the hospital.  The NYPD kept Ms. Doe shackled during her transport, labor and post-partum delivery despite being repeatedly warned of the health risks and illegality by hospital doctors and staff.

As part of the settlement, Ms. Doe insisted that the NYPD also agree to amend its Patrol Guide to prevent its officers from ever violating the rights and safety of another woman through the unlawful use of shackles. “Because of Jane Doe’s bravery and determination in pursuing this case, the NYPD will now change its procedures to better protect pregnant women in the future,” said ECBAWM partner Katie Rosenfeld.

Ms. Doe is represented by ECBAWM attorneys Katie Rosenfeld and Ashok Chandran.  A copy of the settlement agreement can be found here.  The New York Times coverage of the settlement can be found here.

Other coverage of the case can be found here, here and here.

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ECBAWM Represents Bronx High School Senior Kymani Johnson in His Effort to Hold the NYPD Accountable

As reported in the Daily News on June 10, 2019,  Kymani Johnson is a 19-year old high school senior in the Bronx who plans to become a lawyer.  On Monday, May 27, 2019, Mr. Johnson was wrongfully arrested by the New York City Police Department at approximately 2:00 pm in Haffen Park, after he attempted to record NYPD officers in an interaction with another individual. NYPD officers grabbed Mr. Johnson, threw him again a fence, and repeatedly punched him.  He was then handcuffed, arrested, and held for many hours, until a judge dismissed the baseless charges against him.   On the day after his arrest, the same NYPD officers went to Mr. Johnson’s house, where they harassed and threatened him, in an apparent attempt to intimidate him from reporting their misconduct.  Mr. Johnson is represented by ECBAWM attorney Katie Rosenfeld.  You can read the Daily News’ coverage and see the video here.

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Jury Awards $14.3 Million for Wrongful Police Shooting

Yesterday, a Manhattan federal court jury awarded $14.325 million to the Estate of John Collado, who was shot and killed by a New York City police officer in the Inwood neighborhood of Manhattan on September 6, 2011. The jury found that the officer, James Connolly, used excessive force when he shot and killed Mr. Collado.

Mr. Collado was shot for being a Good Samaritan. The shooting occurred when Connolly, who was working as a plain-clothes narcotics officer, got into a fight with a suspect on the street, and Mr. Collado, who was unarmed, tried to break it up.

Connolly testified that he shot Mr. Collado because Mr. Collado put him in a choke hold – but the jury specifically found that was false. The jury found that Connolly’s story did not hold up against the witnesses’ testimony, the forensic evidence, and the video evidence. Since the shooting, Connolly has been promoted by the NYPD; he is now a sergeant.

“My husband was a loving, caring man who was doing nothing more than trying to help,” Mr. Collado’s wife, Amarilis Collado, said. “This verdict is confirmation that John should never have been killed that day. After seven years of fighting, I finally feel like justice has been served,” Mrs. Collado added.

“The jury thoughtfully considered the evidence in this case and determined that what happened here was wrong, and that the Collado family is deserving of a significant award,” said ECBAWM partner Sam Shapiro. Mr. Shapiro and ECBA partner Earl Ward represented Mrs. Collado.

This case was covered in the New York Daily News, available here.

 

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Harlem Black Business Owner Arrested for Being a Business Owner While Black

The law firm of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP (ECBAWM) yesterday evening filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of three black men who are among the many black New Yorkers and black Americans arrested for simply doing the normal things that normal people do—driving a car down the street, having a barbecue, or, in this case, doing one’s job.

Plaintiff Dr. Clyde Pemberton is the CEO of the corporation that owns MIST Harlem (https://mistharlem.com/), a restaurant and entertainment venue. The complaint alleges that Dr. Pemberton and two MIST employees were arrested on June 1, 2017 simply because they are black. Dr. Pemberton went to aid a white woman who was unconscious and being dragged through MIST by her two white friends. The ill woman’s friends screamed racial epithets at him and attacked him. MIST employees called 911 for an ambulance. When the paramedics and the police arrived, Dr. Pemberton and two MIST employees were arrested for allegedly falsely imprisoning the ill woman. The police never interviewed them before arresting them.

Plaintiff’s attorney, Elizabeth S. Saylor said, “It is time for the NYPD to be held accountable. The NYPD must stop reflexively defending its officers without even conducting an investigation. The NYPD must take real action to stamp out discrimination by holding accountable those officers who violate citizens’ constitutional rights.”

Despite having done nothing but express concern for a patron in danger, suffer an unprovoked racist attack, and try to deescalate a volatile situation, Dr. Pemberton and two other MIST employees were arrested, held at a police station overnight, and forced to go to court to fight charges for several months, before the district attorney finally dismissed the charges.

“This is exactly the kind of interaction that destroys trust in law enforcement in minority communities,” said Ms. Saylor. This incident has left Plaintiffs deeply shaken. They had not previously known the fear, the disrespect, or the pain of being the victims of arbitrary and heavy-handed conduct by the police. Dr. Pemberton had even previously worked with the police. He ran a Harlem-based community mental health center, performed psychological evaluations for the NYPD, and served as a psychiatric consultant to the Newark Police Department. “This lawsuit seeks to remedy the injustice perpetrated by the NYPD,” said Ms. Saylor.

Read coverage of the case in The New York TimesNew York Daily News, New York Post, New York Law Journal, Hip Hop Wired, and The Grio. The complaint is available here.

The three plaintiffs are represented by Elizabeth Saylor and Doug Lieb.

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