March 21, 2023

Firm wins $2 million jury verdict against NYPD detectives and the City of New York for violating client’s fair trial rights

A federal jury today awarded a total of nearly $2 million in compensatory and punitive damages after finding that three long-time New York City detectives sent firm client Jawaun Fraser, then 18, to prison on a fabricated robbery case and that the NYPD had unlawful policies for the disclosure of evidence favorable to the defense, known as “Brady material.” The verdict, finding the defendants liable on every claim, and awarding punitive damages against the officers, was a remarkable rebuke of the NYPD for unconstitutional conduct at the highest levels and of the detectives who framed Mr. Fraser, as well as a complete vindication for Mr. Fraser, who spent two years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

Jawaun Fraser, now 27 years old, was convicted in 2015 in the State Supreme Court in Manhattan for robbery and spent two years in prison.  In 2019, his conviction was overturned because the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office had failed to disclose at least 11 police misconduct lawsuits that had been brought against the arresting officer, Matthew Regina, and could have been used to discredit him.

On behalf of Mr. Fraser, the firm then sued Regina, an undercover narcotics officer known as “UC 84,” and a third detective, Jason Del Toro, for fabricating the robbery case against Mr. Fraser. You can read the complaint here. The lawsuit, filed in Manhattan Federal Court, further alleged that UC 84 and Del Toro had failed to disclose numerous lawsuits in which they had been accused of misconduct and that the NYPD was also responsible for having a policy that unlawfully discouraged police officers from disclosing information relevant to their credibility, known as impeachment information, including their lawsuit histories.

During a seven-day trial, Joel Rudin, with co-counsel Michael Bloch and Ben White of Bloch & White, introduced extraordinary evidence showing that the NYPD had a comprehensive database of lawsuits against every officer at the NYPD but consciously decided not to use it to make sure that lawsuit information was disclosed as required by law.  Mr. Fraser’s lawyers also introduced training materials showing that the NYPD had adopted a written policy that exempted the lawsuit information from being disclosed even though a decision of the highest court in New York State had explicitly required it.  The firm and co-counsel also proved that New York City was liable under a Supreme Court decision known as “Monell” because it was “deliberately indifferent” to providing adequate training even though it was aware that NYPD officers had a history of succumbing to a “temptation to commit perjury,” as NYPD training materials put it.  Mr. Rudin’s summation, which summarizes the evidence, may be read here.

The jury verdict will have significant ramifications for the NYPD. The judgment of an unlawful policy will open up New York City to similar lawsuits by others who have been harmed by the same disclosure violations.  And the finding that a still-active undercover officer, who has been responsible for thousands of arrests, fabricated evidence may jeopardize many convictions and dozens of pending cases.

Firm lawyer David Rudin and Cristina Alvarez of Bloch & White assisted in litigating the case through trial. Former firm lawyers Matt Wasserman (now at Bronx Defenders) and Haran Tae uncovered key evidence over the course of discovery and defeated dispositive motions to get the case to trial.