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New York Man Falsely Charged with Crimes Awarded $560,000

A New York federal jury awarded $560,000 in compensatory and punitive damages against police officers in a civil rights action brought by a man who had previously been acquitted of drug and firearm charges.  The second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the judgement.

Leroy Davis was arrested in Brooklyn, New York, on October 2, 2009, by New York Police Department (NYPD) officers Javier Velez and James Lukeson and NYPD Sgt. Gary Calhoun.  The facts were hotly disputed between the parties.

The officers contended they saw Davis “furtively drop a plastic bag on a public sidewalk, heard a metallic clink that sounded like a gun and found a gun and crack cocaine inside the bag,” the district court wrote in denying a motion for new trial.  See:  Davis v. Velez, 15 F. Supp. 3d 234 (E.D.N.Y. 2014).

Davis contended the officers approached him as he was locking the gate to his house, and that he had neither been walking down the street as the officers contended nor was he carrying a bag.  A witness said they saw officers enter Davis’s home for 20-30 minutes and came out with a box.  Afterwards,
Davis was arrested.

Testimony of the hearsay type was admitted that a relative of the home’s owner set Davis up and planted the gun and drugs as jealousy over Davis’s relationship with a relative.  Davis was acquitted of the criminal charges related to the matter after a trial.

He then filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action for false arrest, malicious prosecution, and denial of a fair trial against the three officers.  The jury returned a verdict in Davis’s favor on all three claims.  It awarded compensatory damages of $54,000 against each defendant; it awarded punitive damages against Velez and Lukeson in the amount of $126,000 each and $146,000 against Calhoun.

The Second District Court of Appeals rejected the defendants’ appeal arguing the hearsay evidence and improprieties in jury deliberations required a new trial.  See:  Davis v. Velez et al, No 14-1826, (2d Cir. Aug 4, 2015).

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Related legal case

Davis v. Velez et al