Phony Cocaine Busts Will Cost Police
BROOKLYN (CN) - Two undercover police officers must pay more than $430,000 to two brothers they falsely arrested for selling cocaine, a federal judge ruled.
Brothers Jose and Maximo Colon had spent an hour-and-a-half at the Delicias de Mi Terra nightclub in Elmhurst, N.Y., on Jan. 5, 2008, when plainclothes Officers Henry Tavarez, Steven Anderson and Alan Figueroa arrived, according to a U.S. Magistrate Judge's 47-page Report and Recommendation.
According to the report, Det. Miguel Caraval showed up later that night, pressed the bothers against the wall and told them they were under arrest.
The Colon brothers said no one told them what they were charged with at the police precinct, where they were fingerprinted, photographed and strip-searched.
Security footage later showed that the brothers never spoke to the officers, and the charges were dismissed.
Roughly a year later, they sued New York City and the officers in the Eastern District of New York, for civil rights violations.
The city paid the brothers $150,000 apiece to settle their case weeks before it was slated for trial.
At one hearing, city lawyers indicated that three of the officers may have planted evidence by "flaking" cocaine on the brothers, according to a court memo.
Figueroa paid the brothers a nominal $166.66 each for their settlements, and charges were dismissed against Caraval.
The remaining officers, Tavarez and Anderson, did not respond to their complaints, and were slapped last week with default judgments of roughly $210,000 each.
A memorandum explaining the penalties describes the fallout of their false arrests.
At the time, the Colon brothers applied for alcohol, cigarette and lottery licenses for a store, which were rejected because of the charges against them.
After newspapers reported their arrest, the brothers said, they were ostracized in their community, and their store closed.
"Women who lived in the neighborhood and who would shop in the store saw newspaper articles about the drug arrest and would no longer allow their children to make purchases in the store or purchase items themselves," U.S. Magistrate Judge Cheryl Pollak wrote in the memo. She added: "[Colon] also testified that he barely sleeps, fears the police, and many of his friends maintain their distance even though they know he was innocent simply because he had a problem with the police and his friends fear retaliation for their association with him."
U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein approved the brothers' awards on Feb. 28: "plaintiff Jose Colon to be awarded $213,393.95, representing $131,708.95 in lost wages, $50,000 in emotional distress damages, $31,185.00 in attorney's fees, and $500.00 in costs; and (2) plaintiff Maximo Colon to be awarded $218,943.95, representing $131,708.95 in lost wages, $65,000 in emotional distress damages, $21,735.00 in attorney's fees, and $500.00 in costs."