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Federal Judge Sanctions MDC for Spoliation of Evidence in COVID-19 Class Action Lawsuit

On Tuesday, June 10, U.S. District Judge Rachel Kovner issued her ruling on the motion filed by ECBAWM and co-counsel the Cardozo Civil Rights Clinic, Alexander A. Reinert, and Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, for preliminary injunction in Chunn v. Edge, 20 Civ. 1590 (E.D.N.Y.), a class-action lawsuit challenging the response of the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) to the COVID-19 pandemic. While denying the request for immediate relief, which would have released medically vulnerable inmates from the MDC, Judge Kovner also found that responses to requests for medical care had been slow at times and the facility had not isolated all inmates who exhibited COVID-like symptoms. Significantly, Judge Kovner drew an adverse inference against the MDC based on its spoliation of paper records of requests for medical care after the lawsuit was filed and imposed sanctions against MDC. “The court’s sanction of the MDC for spoliating evidence during the litigation is a reminder that prison officials are not above the rules,” said ECBAWM attorney Katherine Rosenfeld, who, along with fellow ECBAWM attorneys Andrew Wilson, Sam Shapiro, and Scout Katovich, represents petitioners and the putative class. You can read the full Law.com article here.

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NowThis Profiles ECBAWM’s Wrongfully Convicted Client Jon-Adrian Velazquez

On May 27, 2020, NowThis released an episode of “Wrongful Conviction” with Jason Flom that focuses on the case of ECBAWM client Jon-Adrian Velazquez. The episode features ECBAWM partner Sam Shapiro, who details Mr. Velazquez’s 22 years of advocating for his freedom after being wrongfully convicted of murdering an NYPD officer in 1998. In spite of phone records backing up his alibi and witnesses recanting their testimonies against him, Mr. Velazquez remains behind bars.

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ECBAWM and Co-Counsel File Medical Expert’s Report Finding Serious Failures in Jail’s Coronavirus Response

On April 30, 2020, ECBAWM along with co-counsel the Cardozo Civil Rights Clinic, Alexander A. Reinert, and Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, filed a motion for preliminary injunction in Chunn v. Edge, 20 Civ. 1590 (E.D.N.Y.), a class-action lawsuit challenging the response of the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) to the COVID-19 pandemic. The motion seeks relief for medically vulnerable people incarcerated in the MDC and improved conditions. The report submitted in support of the motion by Dr. Homer Venters, a leading expert in health services for incarcerated people, describes the failures of the MDC to appropriately respond to protect the health and safety of people confined in the MDC and staff. After Respondent moved to strike the report, U.S. Magistrate Judge Roanne Mann denied the Respondent’s motion less than 24 hours later.

ECBAWM attorneys Katie Rosenfeld, Andrew Wilson, Sam Shapiro, and Scout Katovich represent petitioners and the putative class.

“Medical Expert: Federal Jail Intentionally Destroying Medical Records and Hiding Extent of Coronavirus Behind Bars,” The Intercept
“Doctor issues damning report on Brooklyn federal jail’s handling of coronavirus outbreak, calling out botched medical response and inadequate protective gear,” New York Daily News
“Brooklyn Judge Finds ‘Cautious Optimism’ in Federal Jail’s Response to COVID-19,” New York Law Journal
“Doctor Sounds Alarm: Conditions Inside Federal Jail In Brooklyn Are Promoting Spread Of COVID-19,” Gothamist

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Trump Family’s Effort to Compel Arbitration of Fraud Case Denied

On April 8, 2020, a federal court denied the attempt of Donald Trump, his immediate family, and The Trump Corporation to compel arbitration of the fraud case pending against them in the Southern District of New York. The case, filed in the fall of 2018, alleges the Trumps defrauded investors into purchasing memberships in a multi-level marketing scheme called ACN. The Trumps had argued that the court should stay the fraud case in favor of individual arbitration based on agreements that the investors had signed with ACN. The court denied the motion on the grounds that the Trumps and ACN were never sufficiently connected such that the investors would have understood that any of their contractual obligations with ACN would correspond to obligations with the Trumps.

The investors are represented by ECBAWM attorneys Andrew G. Celli, Jonathan S. Abady, Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, O. Andrew F. Wilson, Katherine Rosenfeld, Sam Shapiro, David Berman, and Nick Bourland.

“MGM Told to Hand Over Trump’s ‘Apprentice’ Tapes in Scam Suit,” Bloomberg Quint

 

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Class Action Seeks Release of 540 People and Changes to Protect Others Confined at Brooklyn MDC from the Novel COVID-19 Virus

Petitioners Hassan Chunn, Nehemiah McBride, Ayman Rabadi, and Justin Rodriguez filed a class-action lawsuit today against Warden Derek Edge in federal court. The case seeks the immediate release of approximately 540 people most vulnerable to succumbing to COVID-19 and a special master to oversee improvements in the conditions of confinement at Brooklyn’s federal jail, Metropolitan Detention Center (“MDC”), to combat the spread of the virus.

New York City is the epicenter of the Country’s struggle with COVID-19. The risks posed by COVID-19 to people confined in jails and prisons—in terms of transmission, exposure, and harm—are stark and alarming. For reasons beyond their control, people in jails and prisons cannot practice social distancing, control their exposure to large groups, practice increased hygiene, wear protective clothing, obtain specific products for cleaning or laundry, avoid high-touch surfaces, or sanitize their own environment. People in jails and prisons are more vulnerable and susceptible to the risks of coronavirus because they are more likely to have chronic underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, chronic lung and liver diseases, asthma, and lower immune systems from HIV. People have limited opportunities to access medical care under normal circumstances in jails; medical facilities are limited, and as staff become sick, fewer people are present to care for those who remain confined.

The outbreak of a highly infectious, deadly virus in a closed detention setting is a disaster, calling for urgent and decisive action to protect the health of those confined in the jail, those who work there, and the medical professionals who will treat those who become infected.

The lawsuit alleges that Respondent Warden Derek Edge has not taken steps to protect Petitioners from the substantial risk of harm posed by COVID-19, nor could he under the MDC’s current conditions. It seeks immediate relief on the grounds that every hour that Petitioners are held under these circumstances, they are exposed to the substantial risk of a COVID-19 infection, with a substantial risk of death to follow and that continuing to hold vulnerable people under these circumstances violates their Constitutional rights.

ECBAWM attorneys Katie Rosenfeld, Andrew Wilson, Sam Shapiro, and Scout Katovich, together with the Cardozo Civil Rights Clinic, and Alexander A. Reinert, represent petitioners and the putative class.

“Jails Are Petri Dishes’: Inmates Freed as the Virus Spreads Behind Bars,” New York Times

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Sam Shapiro Co-Authors ACLU Amicus Brief

On March 4, 2020, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Supreme Court in Trump v. Vance, arguing that the President should comply with a subpoena that was issued by a New York grand jury seeking the President’s personal records from his accountant. Sam Shapiro of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP co-authored the brief.

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Family of Young Disabled Man Who Died in New York State Group Home Brings Federal Civil Rights Suit

This morning, the family of C.B., a young man with cognitive disabilities who passed away in April 2018, filed a civil rights lawsuit against employees of a group home run by New York’s Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (“OPWDD”). C.B. was found dead in his room at the Valley Ridge Center for Intensive Treatment on the morning of April 9, 2018, after Ashley Sessions, a Valley Ridge employee, failed to check in on him during the night as required.

C.B. died from a pulmonary embolism and heart failure. The day before his death, C.B. and his mother told State employees he couldn’t breathe. The State ignored him. C.B.’s arms and legs were massively swollen with fluid; he gained 50 pounds in a single year; he exhibited the telltale signs of heart failure. But Staff not only did nothing to help him; they repeatedly encouraged him to drink more fluids, contributing to his death.

Even as Sessions failed to check on C.B. as required during the night of his death, C.B. asphyxiated on fluids in his lungs. Sessions then lied to the police to try to cover up her misconduct. She ultimately pled guilty to the crime of filing false statements.

C.B.’s mother, J.M., filed a federal lawsuit alleging that Valley Ridge employees were deliberately indifferent to C.B.’s health and welfare and that the little medical care they did provide was woefully deficient.

“C.B.’s tragic death should never have happened,” C.B.’s family’s attorney, Ilann M. Maazel, of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel, said. “State employees ignored the obvious signs that a disabled man’s health was rapidly deteriorating, then left him alone to die a horrible death in his bedroom. It’s unconscionable.”

“C.B.’s dire condition was plain to see,” added Samuel Shapiro, another attorney representing the family, “but the staff here just didn’t care enough to look.”

ECBAWM’s Ilann M. Maazel, Samuel Shapiro, and Ali Frick represent C.B.’s family.

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Ten ECBAWM Attorneys Named as Super Lawyers; Four Named as Rising Stars

ECBAWM is proud to announce that partners Richard EmeryAndrew CelliMatthew BrinckerhoffJonathan AbadyIlann MaazelEarl WardHal LiebermanDan KornsteinAndrew Wilson, and Elizabeth Saylor were named as Super Lawyers for 2019. Partners Zoe Salzman and Sam Shapiro and associates David Lebowitz and Alanna Kaufman were named as Rising Stars.

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

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Court Rules City Could Be Liable for DA’s Illegal Wiretapping of Colleague

On March 1, 2019, ECBAWM won a significant victory on behalf of Stephanie Rosenfeld, a victim of a months-long illegal wiretap scheme perpetrated by an Assistant District Attorney in Brooklyn. Rejecting the City of New York’s efforts to absolve itself of any responsibility for the misconduct of one of its employees, the Court ruled that the City could be held liable for the unlawful wiretapping scheme under the Wiretap Act, the Stored Communications Act, the U.S. Constitution, and state law. The case is now proceeding to discovery against the City of New York, the Assistant District Attorney who conducted the illegal wiretaps, and other officials within the Brooklyn DA’s office.

Richard D. Emery, Sam Shapiro, and Jessica Clarke represent Ms. Rosenfeld.

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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 plainclothes 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 chokehold – 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.

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