Your Civil Rights Are Precious, and if Someone Violates Them,
without an experienced lawyer, the scales of justice won’t correct themselves on their own.
You need a lawyer who gives a damn, who chooses cases that can go all the way.
Gregory Antollino, Esq.
Tilting the scales of justice back towards citizens since 1993. Call 212-334-7397
Protecting Victims of Police Misconduct
The law gives you the right to sue for misconduct of rogue police officers. Call 212-334-7397 to discuss. Did you know that your right to remain silent means that if a cop asks you a question and you ignore her and walk away, you are exercising your constitutional rights? Did you know that if the cop arrests you because of that, he or she is liable? Most people don’t and are afraid remain silent, and many cops are bullies who don’t like being ignored. If, for example, you were arrested and there was no probable cause – a legitimate reason based on evidence more than a hunch – to take you into custody, you can bring suit against the police officer and usually the governmental entity that was his or her employer. Cases in this area of the law include false arrest, police brutality (excessive force during an arrest) and malicious prosecution.
In New York City, the police have adopted an “us versus them” attitude toward the public, and feel they can get away with anything; they so often do that it breaks my heart. There is no more “Officer Stan” who comes to the class to explain public safety; rather, now parents have to teach their children how to remain safe and conduct themselves when stopped by an officer, especially people of color. I’m lily white, and have never once been stopped in over twenty years the City – but it’s not that I couldn’t have been had I looked different. That bothers me – especially when I hear about and see it happen to people of color all the time. Police brutality is a given, previously eclipsed only by excessive stops. There will always be bogus arrests, most often for “disorderly conduct” – a vague phrase that has a specific meaning that the police ignore and pick and lick like cotton candy. The NYPD arrests so many people for “discon” that they have pre-printed forms, so they don’t have to do any writing – they merely check boxes on a sheet: flailing arms, alarming the public, obscene language, whatever. The Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) almost never sides with complainants, because the standard of evidence is so high to prove a cop did something wrong. In the rare cases in which the CCRB finds misconduct, the Police Commissioner can overrule it. I say it’s an agency with good intentions that has done nothing to decrease police abuse.
I’m currently representing a man who had his anal cavity searched without his consent. That’s a felony in New York, but he’ll get away with it. You can read about the story here and here and the most well-written piece is here.
I’m also representing a young man on his way to college whose arm was fractured because he was tripped by a huge cop. Yes, he was horsing around and high on pot, but a broken arm? The cop weighs 300 pounds; my kid, at the time he weighed 130. The video is here. The City sent me a letter to tell me to take it down, probably because my client is white; they don’t want everyone to know that the cops might be coming after you. The City’s response: He broke his own arm.
Examples in the Press
I filed a case, Thames v. City of New York, in which Jezebel, a division of the somewhat defunct Gawker, explained how my transgender client was abused after a petty arrest and chained to a fence for over 24 hours. This treatment is what the police call “Courtesy, Professionalism and Respect,” or “CPR,” an NYPD motto adopted back in “Giuliani-Time” after Abner Louima was sodomized by some cops in a toilet stall. But “CPR” was never carried out in any meaningful way; many say the police got worse under Bloomberg.
Some Brooklyn College journalism students did a “60 Minutes” style video on the project, in which I, Ms. Thames and some experts in the field offer their opinions.
The best way to protect your rights if the police have illegally detained you or abused you physically is to get a lawyer. The CCRB can help in collecting evidence, but if you think it will cause the officer to lose his or her job, you are almost certainly mistaken. Even after private citizens successfully sue police officers, they are almost always kept on the force; officers sued multiple times don’t even get disciplined. The common refrain is that it is only a few police officers who are guilty of misconduct – the vast majority serve us well. If that were so, there would not be so much police misconduct because the “good” police officers would tell on the bad ones. Of course, that rarely happens.
I’ll tell you something – I’ve done mostly employment work, but I crave these cases, have gotten two six-figure settlements, one smaller jury verdict, and like to take a case that stands for an important principle. Some of my police cases, without any input on my part, have gotten publicity because they shined a light on the scummy underbelly of everyday NYPD practice. In representing Heth and Jed Community Rockers, for example, I was able to show how a bigoted cop harassed and threatened physical harm on two men legally performing their music in public. We were able to trace this officer’s racism and homophobia all over the internet. Of course, the CCRB did nothing. Gothamist, a website about life in the City, tells the whole story.
In representing a young man from Staten Island, first, as a (somewhat) experienced criminal defense attorney, I got the client’s charge for resisting arrest dismissed after a full trial. I had all of the documents to show the inconsistencies between the arresting officers’ stories, and the wholesale perjury of another then demonstrated how one of their “brethren,” who was watching the brutality on camera, conveniently lost the videotape that would have shown the abuse and proven my client not guilty. Luckily, these cops, previously sued multiple times for their misconduct, couldn’t get their stories straight. We then sued in federal court. Staten Island Advance tells more.