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.
Firm principal Joel Rudin was interviewed tonight by award-winning journalist Tom Robbins on New York radio station WBAI about his long career combatting wrongful convictions and misconduct by police and prosecutors. The interview followed Joel’s success last week in overturning the 22-year-old conviction of client Donnell Perkins based upon new evidence our firm uncovered discrediting the sole eyewitness at Mr. Perkins’ Brooklyn trial.
You can listen to the hour-long interview at WBAI’s website or in the media player below.
Donnell Perkins spent almost 22 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. Yesterday, our firm won a state-court motion to vacate his conviction after a seven-year battle with the Brooklyn D.A.’s Office. We proved that the single eyewitness in the case had misled the jury about his eyesight and that his identification of our client could not be trusted.
As reported today by the New York Law Journal, Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Dena Douglas vacated our client’s 2001 murder conviction following a hearing that consumed 22 days from June to December 2022. Although the eyewitness’s description of the suspect didn’t fit our client, police used a highly suggestive lineup to produce an identification, which became the only evidence at trial. At the time Donnell was identified, he was just 17 years old and had no criminal record.
In 2015, firm principal Joel Rudin, troubled by the weakness of the evidence, agreed to represent Donnell pro bono. He and associate Jacob Loup learned from the eyewitness’s ex-wife that, contrary to the eyewitness’s trial testimony that he wore glasses only for reading, in fact he wore thick-lensed eyeglasses in 1999 for all activities. He wasn’t wearing his glasses at the time of the murder, and thus his ability to clearly see the perpetrators and to reliably identify them was substantially impaired.
We brought this evidence to the Brooklyn D.A.’s Conviction Review Unit, but when the CRU didn’t act, we filed a 440 motion on Donnell’s behalf. At the hearing, Joel and Jacob—along with co-counsel Ron Kuby, who represented Donnell’s co-defendant, Kareem Mayo—presented testimony from the ex-wife, an ophthalmologist, and a psychologist specializing in eyewitness identifications. You can read the decision granting the motion here.
Our firm today filed a wrongful conviction lawsuit on behalf of the Estate of Jaythan Kendrick seeking a total of $100 million in compensatory and punitive damages against individual police detectives who caused Mr. Kendrick to be falsely prosecuted and convicted in 1994-95 for a Queens murder he didn’t commit. You can read the lawsuit here. Mr. Kendrick was released in 2020, following a joint motion filed on his behalf by the Innocence Project, the law firm WilmerHale, and the Conviction Review Unit of the Queens District Attorney’s Office. He already had served more than 26 years in prison. His health broken by his prison ordeal, Mr. Kendrick died last year, and we are bringing his lawsuit on behalf of his Estate. Our firm has recovered more than $20 million over the last three years for five clients who were wrongfully convicted in Queens due to a combination of police and prosecutorial misconduct. The Kendrick lawsuit also seeks to hold the City of New York and the New York City Housing Authority liable for their unlawful policies that brought about his wrongful conviction. Joel Rudin and David Rudin are the principal attorneys for our firm working on this case, together with co-counsel Michael Bloch and Ben White of Bloch & White, LLP, and attorney Thomas Hoffman.
A Queens judge has granted our firm’s motion to dismiss the rape indictment of our client, John King, with prejudice, because the Queens District Attorney violated Mr. King’s constitutional right to a speedy trial and because of prosecutorial misconduct in the grand jury. (We previously won the appellate reversal of Mr. King’s conviction after he had served about five years in state prison. Read our appellate brief here. Read the Appellate Division’s decision, People v. King, 192 A.D.3d 1140 (2d Dep’t), here.)
It is exceedingly rare for a New York court to find a violation of the constitutional right to a speedy trial. However, in this case, the court found that the prosecution committed such a violation by waiting nearly five years to indict Mr. King. As a result of this ruling, the prosecution may not seek to prosecute Mr. King again.
Equally remarkably, Justice Gary F. Miret, a former Queens prosecutor, dismissed the indictment because the grand-jury prosecutor—the current chief of the Queens DA’s Special Victims Bureau—had impaired the integrity of the grand jury by knowingly presenting false DNA testimony and concealing that the complainant had initially recanted her accusations. The court further found that both the grand-jury and trial prosecutors, whom it named, had “failed in their duty of fair dealing to the accused and of candor to the motion and trial courts by failing to disclose” the falsity of the DNA testimony.
You can read the entire decision dismissing the indictment here.
Our law firm has previously won five seven-figure civil rights settlements against the City of New York due to misconduct by Queens prosecutors (see here, here, and here), and has succeeded in overturning several felony convictions on appeal or through CPL 440.10 motions due to evidence-withholding and other prosecutorial misconduct.
Jacob “Coby” Loup authored the legal briefs on appeal and at the trial court level that won Mr. King his two victories. The appeal was argued by firm principal Joel B. Rudin.
The firm today settled the false arrest, excessive force, and First Amendment retaliation lawsuit of client Ahmed Sami for $215,000, inclusive of fees. On June 2, 2020, Mr. Sami and his friends were heading home after protesting the murder of George Floyd when a group of officers violently tackled and arrested them. Officers then applied excessively tight flexcuffs to Mr. Sami’s wrists and ignored his complaints of excruciating pain for hours while he was detained. Mr. Sami still suffers from pain, numbness, and limited mobility in his wrists years after the incident. The complaint asserted claims against the individual officers who assaulted Mr. Sami and the City of New York for the NYPD’s deliberate indifference to repeated injuries caused by its use of flexcuffs against protestors.
Law360 reported in depth on the firm’s filing of federal lawsuits on behalf of John Walker, Jr. and Darryl Boyd seeking $112 million in damages each for their wrongful convictions and imprisonment. The article summarizes the police and prosecutorial misconduct alleged in the complaints, including evidence fabrication, coercion of witnesses, and failure to disclose evidence favorable to the defense. The article also details firm principal Joel Rudin’s past success bringing innovative lawsuits holding counties in New York State civilly liable for misconduct by individual prosecutors for which they have full immunity from suit. Read the article here.
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York denied the City of New York’s motion for partial summary judgment and held that all of firm client Jawaun Fraser’s claims could proceed to trial. Mr. Fraser alleges that defendants fabricated evidence of robbery against him, initiated a malicious prosecution, and violated Brady v. Maryland when they disclosed to the defense only two of the 38 lawsuits filed against the team of narcotics officers who arrested him. Throughout its decision, the court incorporated by reference arguments from the firm’s opposition brief. You can read the court’s decision here.
The firm and co-counsel WilmerHale filed federal lawsuits on behalf of John Walker and Darryl Boyd, two surviving members of the Buffalo Five who were wrongfully convicted of murder in 1976. The lawsuits seek a total of $224 million against the City of Buffalo, the County of Erie, and several former detectives for causing Walker and Boyd to spend a total of 50 years in prison and another 40 years on parole. The complaints allege that Buffalo detectives coerced two teenage friends of Walker and Boyd to testify falsely against them, knowing the testimony was false. The complaints further allege that the Buffalo Police Department and the Erie County District Attorney’s Office concealed powerful evidence that a neighbor of the murder victim committed the crime.
Walker and Boyd are represented by the Law Offices of Joel B. Rudin and WilmerHale. The Buffalo News reported on the filings in a front-page story here. Buffalo television channels and radio stations covered the press conference today announcing the lawsuits here, here, here, here, and here. You can read the complaints here and here.
In his capacity as vice chair of the Amicus Curiae Committee of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, on February 24, 2022, Mr. Rudin filed an amicus brief in support of the motion of Ghislaine Maxwell, the defendant in the infamous Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking case, for a new trial due to misconduct by a juror in misrepresenting his background as a sex-crime victim. Today Mr. Rudin was quoted in a report in the Wall Street Journal on the importance of Maxwell’s post-conviction motion in safeguarding the constitutional right to a fair and impartial jury. You can read the article here. The brief, authored by leading white-collar defense attorney Abbe Lowell and edited by Mr. Rudin, is reproduced here.