Outcome: Acquitted in federal court criminal trial. Civil case then filed in federal court against three New York City Police Department officers. Jury ordered defendant officers pay client $162,000 in compensatory damages and $398,000 in punitive damages.
Client was arrested for possessing a pistol and crack cocaine by the New York Police Department. The District Attorney’s Office filed a complaint then referred prosecution to the federal government resulting in client indictment. After client received a federal court appointed defense attorney and pled not guilty, we were retained.
A trial was held in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (“EDNY”). Officer #1 alleged he was on duty with officers #2 and #3, and he and client “locked eyes” resulting in client dropping a bag and hearing a metallic sound he believed was the sound of a gun hitting the sidewalk. Officer testified he jumped out of police car and in the dropped bag he found a gun and crack cocaine.
Our investigation identified seven neighborhood witnesses, four of whom testified to their recollections of events that included the afternoon before client’s arrest his landlord’s grandson was in her home and had an altercation with client whom he threatened “I’ll get you”; that client was handcuffed in the street when the police were in his residence and room shining flashlights for a considerable time; and that an officer exited client’s residence holding a black gun box which client’s landlord later found in her residence days after client’s arrest.
The jury acquitted client of all three counts in the indictment and released him from custody. Later, one of the defense witnesses reported the grandson told her he planted a gun and drugs in client’s room and that she was afraid of grandson’s retaliation if she testified to that fact.
A civil complaint was filed in the EDNY against the officers and New York City. Defense witness testified grandson told her he had planted a gun and drugs in client’s room. Client testified he left his residence to visit his girlfriend and three plainclothes officers arrested him. One of the officers took his keys and officers entered his residence. The jury returned a verdict against each of the three officers awarding client $162,000 in compensatory damages and $398,000 in punitive damages.
Officers appealed in the U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit which upheld EDNY jury order requiring defendant officers pay client $560,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.