New York City has agreed to pay Michael Warren and his wife Evelyn $360,000 to settle accusations of police brutality and wrongful arrest. The couple, both civil rights attorneys, alleged they were assaulted when they tried to help a man they say was being beaten by police officers.
The settlement was announced on Monday, just hours before the civil trial was set to begin. Jonathan Moore, a Manhattan injury attorney specializing in governmental misconduct, represented the couple. He believes the settlement represents an "acknowledgement of misconduct."
City attorneys were quick to point out that no one has admitted wrongdoing. Nonetheless, the couple stands by their story. They were driving through Brooklyn in June 2007 when they saw several officers catch and handcuff a young black man, reports Reuters. It was then they allegedly saw Sgt. Steven Talvy kick the man in the head.
They got out of the car and told the officers to stop, but were ordered back to their vehicle. They did, but when an officer noticed them taking down police license plate numbers, things got heated. An officer allegedly pulled Michael Warren from his car and punched him in the face, explains Reuters. He also punched Evelyn in the jaw.
The Warrens were then arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and obstruction. The charges were eventually dropped, but they sued.
Though their claims were relatively strong and there appears to have been no reason for them to be arrested (they returned to the vehicle when ordered to do so), Monday's settlement isn't an invitation to get involved in police activity. Michael Warren specializes in police misconduct cases and arguably knew what he was doing. You probably don't.
So if you witness misconduct or brutality as did Evelyn and Michael Warren, stand back. Consider taking a video or photographs. Call 911 and tell them what you are witnessing. Get documentation. Do something, but don't try to intervene. You'll just get arrested yourself.
- Police Misconduct Case: Did the Lawyers Beat the Cops? (New York Personal Injury Law Blog)
- Police Corruption and Misconduct (FindLaw)
- Getting Arrested Checklist: Have My Rights Been Violated? (FindLaw)