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NYPD Sergeant Fined for Constitutional Violation

MANHATTAN (CN) - A federal jury slapped a $21,046 fine against a New York City Police Department sergeant for searching a pawnshop and arresting its broker without a warrant.

Broker Brian Cabrera's attorney, Paul Solda, says this is the first case in which a pawnbroker has successfully sued a police officer in federal court for constitutional violations related to the search of his shop.

"We're tickled," Solda said in a phone interview. "This case is about a declaration of a pawnbroker's rights."

On Jan. 23, 2008, Sgt. Ron Marti arrested Cabrera for refusing to consent to a search of his pawnshop's safe and secured area without a warrant, which the officer believed hid stolen goods. The charges were eventually dropped.

By handcuffing Cabrera, a jury found Marti's actions constituted false arrest, assault and battery.

Marti was cleared of wrongdoing for arresting Cabrera again on May 5 of that year because a search warrant extended probable cause even though he did not have an arrest warrant.

The jury did not award $1 million in punitive damages, as Solda had requested.

Marti's attorney, George Tsougarakis, hinted that he may appeal the fine.

"We are pleased that the jury returned a verdict in favor of Sergeant Ron Marti with respect to the majority of the claims at issue," Tsougarakis wrote in an e-mail to Courthouse News. "While we continue to believe that the Jan. 23, 2008 arrest of plaintiff Brian Cabrera was entirely proper, we are also pleased that the jury rejected punitive damages and awarded damages in an amount far less than the plaintiff requested. We are continuing to evaluate Sergeant Marti's options with respect to verdict."


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