NY Daily News: Phil Hines, Partner at Held & Hines, LLP, is quoted in the News
- Posted on: Aug 22 2017
In one lawsuit, a Bronx mom accused the detective, David Terrell, of body-slamming her after she pleaded for him and other officers to stop beating her son. In another lawsuit, Terrell is accused of promising to protect a Bronx mom’s son if she gave in to his sexual advances.
Charmaine Dixon, 43, was one of the first to sue Terrell over a false arrest, when he held the rank of officer in the 42nd Precinct.
In 2011, Dixon and her then-6-year-old daughter went to the Morrisania precinct stationhouse after she heard Terrell had arrested her 16-year-old son, Tamel, at his school. She said in her lawsuit, filed in Manhattan Federal Court, that when she approached the police station she could hear her son screaming.
“By the time I got over there, I heard my son yelling in the bullpen, ‘Ma, help me, Ma, help me!’ ” Dixon said.
When she looked through a window, she saw her son handcuffed with officers beating and pepper-spraying him, according to the lawsuit.
Terrell and four officers came outside the stationhouse. They began following the mom as she tried to walk away with her daughter. That’s when Terrell bear-hugged her and threw her to the sidewalk, permanently injuring her shoulder, neck and back, Dixon claimed in the lawsuit.
Dixon was arrested on misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest and obstructing governmental administration, but a Bronx judge threw out the case six months later.
“She had a criminal prosecution hanging over her head because she caught them roughing up her son,” her lawyer Philip Hines told the Daily News.
Dixon said she now takes medication for the pain and has a home health aide assist her five days a week.
“I’m damaged for the rest of my life,” she said.
Tamel Dixon, whose arrest was also tossed, said he is torn apart by seeing his mother in pain.
“They’re all corrupt, but there’s nothing I can do because the system is so powerful,” he said of the cops who busted him.
Charmaine Dixon’s lawsuit, which was filed in 2014, is still pending. Most of the lawsuits against Terrell came after Dixon filed hers.
Dixon’s lawyer said all the suits have a common theme of false arrest and intimidation.
“This sort of seems to be the MO for him,” Hines said.
The mounting allegations and lawsuits against Terrell and his colleagues in the 42nd Precinct recently spurred the Bronx district attorney’s Public Integrity Bureau to open an investigation into their conduct.
The News reported Monday that lawsuits against Terrell snowballed after the arrest of Pedro Hernandez, a Bronx teen who spent a year on Rikers Island because he couldn’t afford his $250,000 bail. Hernandez, 18, was released from Rikers last month after the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights group stepped in to cover his bail.
The teen is accused of gun possession and reckless endangerment in the 2015 shooting of another teenager, Shaun Nardoni.
Terrell, who was placed on modified assignment last fall over a domestic violence incident, was a field intelligence officer in the 42nd Precinct and frequently questioned teens over guns and shootings.
He passed on information to his colleague, Detective Daniel Brady, who arrested Hernandez in the shooting.
Hernandez is suing Terrell and the city, claiming a previous false arrest.
Hernandez’s civil lawyer, John Scola, said that, with the help of private investigator Manuel Gomez, he has signed up 22 clients who have filed or plan to bring lawsuits against Terrell, Brady or the 42nd Precinct.
So far, Scola has filed 10 lawsuits and two notices of claim — the first step in suing the city. Many are from Bronx teens who say Terrell either falsely arrested them or threatened violence if they didn’t identify a suspect in a crime.
In a lawsuit filed last year, Angelo Cotto said Terrell repeatedly arrested him while the cop made unwanted overtures to his mom.
Cotto said Terrell collared him at age 13 in 2010 for disorderly conduct. Two weeks after the arrest, Terrell called Cotto’s mom, Elizabeth Rosado, to ask her out, according to the suit.
In 2014, after a shooting outside her apartment building, Rosado received several phone calls from Terrell in which he made unwanted sexual advances, the lawsuit says. Terrell also promised to protect her son from arrest if she gave in to his requests, according to the lawsuit.
Cotto says that Terrell twice arrested him while harassing his mother for sex. That lawsuit is ongoing.
Records show that Terrell has been sued at least seven times by plaintiffs who were represented by lawyers other than Scola. Three of those lawsuits were dismissed. Two ended in settlements, with the city paying one plaintiff $45,000 and the other $25,000. Two lawsuits remain open.
In a lawsuit filed in May, Bronx resident Ryan Coleman said he was wrongfully arrested after he filmed plainclothes officers speed down a street in an unmarked car and park facing the wrong direction in front of a fire hydrant.
Coleman recorded the officers on his cell phone as they got out of their car on June 1, 2016. That’s when Terrell ordered Coleman to stop recording, grabbed his cell phone and arrested him for disorderly conduct and obstruction of justice, according to the lawsuit.
Coleman said he was strip-searched at the 42nd Precinct stationhouse and denied his seizure medication. He spent 32 hours in jail until a judge released him on his own recognizance. An hour after his release, Coleman suffered a seizure, the lawsuit says.
The city Law Department declined to comment on the suits. Hernandez’s lawyer Alex Spiro also declined to comment.
Not all of the police encounters in the 42nd Precinct have led to lawsuits — but they’ve left lasting impressions.
Isaac Bediako, 15, said cops in the precinct have stopped and questioned him three times for running down a street at night. He said he thinks the officers were trying to keep the neighborhood safe, but still it’s unsettling.
“I understand if you’re looking for somebody running, even I will be suspicious,” Isaac said. “But the fact that they stop young African-American males like myself, that often is ridiculous.”
The 42nd was among the top five precincts for complaints to the Civilian Complaint Review Board in 2016. That year, 100 complaints were lodged against 42nd Precinct officers, according to the CCRB. There were 106 CCRB complaints about the precinct’s officers in 2015.
Earlier this year, a city controller report showed that of all the city’s precincts, the 42nd had the second-highest rate of claims against police in 2016. For every 100 crime complaints in the precinct, 9.35 notices of claim involving its officers were filed.