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Tuesday, May 28, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Lawsuit Proceeds Over Tinfoil & Dance Caper

MANHATTAN (CN) - A New Yorker can press ahead with a civil rights lawsuit for a series of unfortunate events, involving courthouse metal detectors, a tinfoil wrapped sandwich, a chest implant and a victory dance gone awry, a federal judge ruled.

Heyward Dotson tried to enter New York Supreme Court at 111 Centre St. for a housing court hearing on Sept. 19, 2008, when his tinfoil-wrapped sandwich repeatedly set off the detector.

After he finally made it through, Dotson said he performed a "celebratory motion," rotating his hands in front of his chest "in a circular motion."

The guards interpreted the little dance as hostile, he says.

At that point, Sgt. Farrugia, first name unknown, handcuffed him and led him upstairs with two other officers for questioning, Dotson says.

For the next hour and a half, Dotson says, they grilled him on whether the birdseed they found on him was drugs. They also forced him to take off his shoes and socks and lift up his shirt, he says.

Dotson claims he missed his housing hearing that day and came out with a new court date for a criminal disorderly conduct summons, which described his behavior as "disorderly and erratic" and "verbally defiant and extremely uncooperative."

Shortly after this incident, Dotson says, he had a defibrillator implanted in his chest. He says he warned a different courthouse guard about it on the day of his Jan. 26, 2009 hearing on his summons. Dotson says that the guard insisted that he go through the machine anyway, causing him to collapse until emergency medical workers whisked him to a hospital.

His next court date went more smoothly.

After the guards gave him a pat-down screening, Dotson says, he received an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal of his disorderly conduct charge.

On Feb. 18, 2011, Dotson sued New York City, several court officers and the private firm Allied Barton Security Services, seeking compensatory and punitive damages on 14 claims.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer gave Dotson the green light to pursue claims of false arrest, excessive force and assault and battery, but discarded the rest of the charges.

Spokespeople for the city were not immediately available for comment.

The parties will meet for a pretrial conference on April 5.

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