Friday, September 22, 2023
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‘This Is What Happens When You Get Involved’

BROOKLYN (CN) - An artist honored by the White House for AIDS activism sued New York City, claiming police illegally arrested her for filming officers stopping and frisking black teenagers outside her house.

Hadiyah Charles sued New York City, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, his Officers Pamela Benites and Raymond Williams, and a John Doe officer, in Federal Court.

President Obama declared Hadiyah Charles, a 34-year-old artist, a "Champion of Change" in the fight against HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

The NYPD's stop-and-frisk policy has been the subject of several federal lawsuits.

Charles claims she was arrested after she pointed her smartphone at "police harassment" of teenagers outside her home six months ago.

"On the evening of June 5, 2012, as Ms. Charles was returning home from work, she noticed two NYPD officers, who she subsequently learned were Officers Pamela Benites and Raymond Williams, questioning and frisking three black males in front of a residence on her street, Clifton Place," the complaint states. "Ms. Charles recognized the three youths from the neighborhood, and knew at least one of them lived on the block."

Charles claims the teens said they were just fixing their bicycle, and it looked like that was true.

"Ms. Charles considered simply walking past the scene, but after all she had heard about the controversies surrounding the Stop, Question and Frisk program, she wanted to see whether the stop was justified," the complaint states. "She decided that she would not forgive herself if she walked away while the teen-agers were being hassled without justification."

When she inquired, she says, Officer Williams told her it was "police business," and Benites told her to step away from the scene.

Charles says she followed that order, then took out her smartphone, with the idea of sending the video to news outlets. She said Benites kept urging her to move farther away and followed her wherever she moved.

"After Ms. Charles changed viewpoints, the mother of one of the teen-agers arrived, and Officer Benites began speaking to her," the complaint states. "Ms. Charles asked the mother whether it was OK to film the incident. She agreed and encouraged Ms. Charles to continue filming.

"Immediately following this exchange, Officer Benites approached Ms. Charles and forcefully shoved her. Ms. Charles asked Officer Benites why she had pushed her and Officer Benites ignored the question."

Charles says she was arrested after telling a police supervisor that she wanted to file a complaint about being shoved.

On a ride in a police van to the 79th Precinct, Benites derisively called Charles a "street lawyer," according to the complaint.

Charles says she was put into a holding cell, and Benites told her, "This is what happens when you get involved."

Charles claims she succumbed to police pressure to tell them the password to her phone and drop her plan to file a complaint, in order to get released.

Her summons for disorderly conduct was dismissed on Oct. 5, and none of the teenagers she observed were arrested, issued a summons or found to have any contraband, Charles says in the complaint.

She seeks punitive damages for five violations of the state and federal constitutions and New York common law.

She is represented by Christopher Dunn, with the ACLU.

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