Thursday, January 19, 2017

Lawyer-plaintiff cannot sue the police

The plaintiff in this case is a lawyer who sued the police for malicious prosecution, selective enforcement and excessive force. He loses each of those claims in the Court of Appeals.

The case is Tyk v. Surat, a summary order decided on January 12. Tyk was arrested for reckless endangerment, harassment and disorderly conduct. He was acquitted, prompting this lawsuit. This is how the district court summarizes the facts:

Plaintiff admits that he illegally parked his car outside of Maimonides Medical Center (“MMC”) in violation of a New York City ordinance. He returned to find that his car was gone. MMC security personnel informed plaintiff that his car had been towed. An argument ensued and Alexander D’Atri, director of security at MMC, directed MMC security officers to handcuff plaintiff.

New York City Police Officer Eric Surat responded to the scene and spoke with MMC security personnel Fernandez and Castillo as well as D’Atri. Officer Surat observed a red marking on D’Atri’s nose. D’Atri and the security officers reported to Officer Surat that plaintiff became upset and violent after learning that his car had been towed, and that plaintiff struck D’Atri in the face with his hand while holding his cellphone. Officer Surat arrested plaintiff. Plaintiff alleges that Officer Surat handcuffed him too tightly. Plaintiff was issued a desk appearance ticket.

A couple of months later, Assistant District Attorney Roger Yu interviewed D’Atri regarding the altercation at MMC. Based on that interview and the statements made therein by D’Atri, ADA Yu prepared a criminal complaint, which D’Atri signed. D’Atri alleged that plaintiff struck D’Atri on the bridge of his nose with his cellphone, and that D’Atri was given medical treatment for an abrasion.

The District Attorney charged plaintiff with multiple crimes including assault in the third degree, reckless endangerment in the second degree, menacing, trespass, and harassment in the second degree. The case went to trial, and plaintiff was acquitted.
Acquittals mean the prosecution cannot prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but it does not mean you can bring a lawsuit. No reasonable doubt does not mean no probable cause.The police had probable cause to arrest Tyk because he interviewed three hospital workers about the incident and saw that one of them had red marks on the nose. That gives you probable cause to arrest for reckless endangerment, harassment and disorderly conduct. The police also learned that Tyk was told to leave the hospital property, which supports the trespass arrest. While Tyk says the police could have done a better job in the investigation -- which would have proven Tyk's innocence -- the police are not required to conduct a full investigation before arresting someone. 

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