Top NYPD Civil Rights Cases in New York City

wrongful nypd arrest

Three Brothers Wrongfully Convicted As A Result of A Corrupt NYPD Detective

New York City settled a claim for a wrongful conviction, resulting in a $17 million payout to the three defendants. The defendants were Robert Hill, Alvena Jennette and Darryl Austin, all half brothers. They spent a combination of 60 years in prison due to their false arrest and wrongful conviction, largely accredited to the notorious, retired Detective Louis Scarcella, whose cases are currently under review by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office.

The false arrest and malicious prosecution of the brothers was based on the evidence of one witness, a crack addict by the name of Teresa Gomez. Detective Scarcella had a history of using this particularly unreliable witness, who provided testimony for six of his cases. Despite her testimony repeatedly contradicting the physical evidence and the other witness accounts, the three brothers were convicted on murder charges. The settlement will pay $7.15 million to Mr. Hill, after enduring 27 years in prison; $6 million to Mr. Jennette, after spending 20 years in prison; and $3.85 million to the estate of Mr. Austin, who passed away in prison after 13 years behind bars.

Wrongfully Convicted Man, Framed By Corrupt NYPD Detective, Is Released after 23 Year Incarceration

David Ranta was released from prison after serving 23 years on a wrongful conviction, based on fabricated testimony given by disgraced NYPD Detective Louis Scarcella. Mr. Ranta was convicted in 1990 for the murder of a Hasidic Rabbi in Brooklyn, after the victim was shot in the head by an individual fleeing the scene of a jewelry store robbery. Detective Scarcella proceeded to frame Mr. Ranta for the crime, who subsequently served 23 years in prison before being released. New York City moved quickly to settle Mr. Ranta’s claim for $6.4 million, after it became clear that Detective Scarcella had been involved in numerous cases of police misconduct.

Unarmed Man Gunned Down by NYPD on His Wedding Day

On November 25th, 2006, Mr. Bell and his two friends, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield, were leaving Club Kalua after celebrating Mr. Bell’s bachelor party the night before his wedding. Mr. Guzman got into an argument with a man outside of the club and, as Mr. Bell tried to drive away from the scene, he struck a Police van and caused an accidental injury to an officer. Three NYPD officers proceeded to open fire on Mr. Bell’s vehicle, discharging a total of fifty rounds into the car, killing Mr. Bell.

The police officers were prosecuted but found not guilty at trial, however the officers have since either suffered from internal reprimands or been forced to resign as a result of the shooting. New York City settled a claim for wrongful death on behalf of Mr. Bell’s family for $7.15 million. Mr. Bell’s fiancé has since adopted his last name, and has promised to continue pushing for Police reforms in order to prevent similar incidents of police misconduct and wrongful death.

Eric Garner Choked to Death by NYPD

Eric Garner, 43, was selling cigarettes on a busy sidewalk in Staten Island when NYPD officers approached him. One officer attempted to place handcuffs on Mr. Garner while another officer grabbed Mr. Garner from behind, placing him in a tight chokehold and forcing him to the ground. Mr. Garner repeatedly stated that he was unable to breath and pleading with the officers to stop. The officer proceeded to use his knee to push Mr. Garner’s face into the pavement. Moments later, Mr. Garner was pronounced dead on the scene. The officer responsible for Mr. Garner’s death was brought before a criminal court, but a grand jury declined to indict him. Mr. Garner’s family filed a claim against the City of New York for wrongful death, which settled for $5.9 million.

Unarmed Man Shot Nineteen Times by NYPD in a Case of Mistaken Identity

Amadou Diallo, a 22-year old West African immigrant, was unarmed and without a criminal record when he was killed by NYPD officers. Mr. Diallo was approached and stopped by four police officers in the doorway of his apartment building in the Bronx. The plain clothed officers believed that Mr. Diallo fit the description of a man wanted in relation to a rape case. The officers asked for identification and as Mr. Diallo retrieved a wallet from his person he was gunned down in a hail storm of 41 bullets, 19 of which struck and killed Mr. Diallo. The four officers had mistaken Mr. Diallo’s wallet for a gun. The officers faced prosecution on second-degree murder charges, among others, but were all acquitted. Mr. Diallo’s family sued the officers and the City of New York for wrongful death, and settled the claim for $3 million. The settlement amount was said to be the largest settlement under the New York State’s wrongful-death statute for a victim earning less than $10,000 and without any dependents.

Man Subjected To Torture and Police Brutality In Precinct Bathroom

On August 9th, 1997, Abner Louima, a 33-year old Haitian immigrant, was leaving a nightclub in Brooklyn when he was caught in a scuffle involving NYPD officers and other individuals. Mr. Louima was falsely arrested and taken to the 70th Precinct, where he was tortured by vengeful NYPD officers, who mistook Mr. Louima for one of the individuals from the scuffle. Mr. Louima was dragged into a precinct bathroom and was beaten mercilessly by a number of officers. At one point an officer rammed a broken broomstick into Mr. Louima’s rectum, perforating his bladder, and then withdrew the bloody and soiled stick and shoved it into Mr. Louima’s mouth, breaking a tooth. Officer Justin Volpe, who admitted in court to sodomizing Mr. Louima, left the force and was later sentenced to thirty years in prison. Officer Charles Schwarz, another implicated in Mr. Louima’s torture, was sentenced to five years in prison for committing perjury during the trial.

Four years after the incident, Mr. Louima reached a settlement with the City of New York for $7.125 million and with the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association for $1.625 million. This figure was the highest amount paid by the City, at that time, to settle a police brutality case, and believed to be the first time any police union in the country had paid to settle a police brutality claim.