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$750,000 in Damages and Attorney Fees Awarded in New York False Arrest Case

On July 2, 2015, a New York federal court entered a settlement judgement for $250,000 each in favor of two black men who were falsely arrested for two armed robberies and spent eleven months in jail. The court also awarded $250,000 in attorney fees in this civil rights action.

Meliek Sanders and Corey Phillips were arrested following two separate traffic stops. Police maintained that their appearance and attire, gray hoodies, were similar to those worn by two or three black men who had committed recent armed robberies. NYPD detective Nathanie Ray allegedly manipulated lineups to force the identification of Sanders and Phillips and coached witnesses to identify them. Some did and some did not. Police officer Michael Rakerbrandt, who had walked in on one of the robberies and torn a .piece off the hood of one of the robbers during a struggle, falsely identified them as the robbers. They were indicted.

Bail was set at $50,000 for Sanders and $85,000 for Phillips. They could not afford it, so they spent eleven months in jail.

Eventually, DNA tests on the hood fabric proved that neither man's DNA was on the hood. Examination of video recordings of the robberies also showed the robbers could not have been them. Thereafter, the prosecutor agreed to lower the bail so that the men could be released. Five months later, the prosecution moved to dismiss all charges against Sanders and Phillips.

Aided by New York attorney Michael B. Lumer, Sanders and Phillips filed a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the City of New York, Ray and Rakebrandt in federal court. The defendants opted to settle the case for $250,000 to each plaintiff plus $250,000 in attorney fees for a total of $750,000. See: Sanders v. City of New York, U.S.D.C.-E.D. NY, Case No. 1:12-cv-00113-PKC-LB.

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Related legal case

Sanders v. City of New York