The city blinked and now it’s paying in the civil rights suit brought by grassroots attorneys Evelyn Warren and Michael Tarif Warren.
The case, which was scheduled to begin at Brooklyn Federal courthouse on Monday, May 14, was settled out of court the preceding Friday. Addressing supporters who came out on Monday morning, the Warrens held a press conference outside the court building instead of going in.
The financial settlement was “substantial, and big enough to say that the city knew there was wrongdoing,” said Michael Warren.
It was evident that he wanted to go into court and fight the case so he could expose unchecked police violence against the people. However, Michael Warren said they took it under legal advisement, weighed the personal cost and potential stress and took the settlement.
The city will give the married couple $360,000.
On Thursday, June 21, 2007, police assaulted and arrested the Warrens when the couple questioned them as they beat a handcuffed youth in the parking lot of a McDonald’s in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Hundreds of people descended upon the 77th Precinct and demanded the immediate release of the prominent civil rights attorneys.
A core group of the same folk had geared up to be in court daily until word came down over the weekend that the city had made an offer the Warrens could consider.
“I feel better now, a little relieved, but I think I will carry what happened to me for the rest of my life,” Evelyn Warren told the AmNews. It is not something that you can just put behind you.
“The fact that we got a substantial settlement is a statement in itself that the police have engaged in wrongdoing, and the is city saying, ‘We believe that these officers have engaged in wrongdoing,’” she said.
The NYPD stated all along that the Warrens were interfering with the arrest.
Michael Warren said he and his wife were both punched in the face by supervising officer Stephen Talvy when they queried why he and his officers were pummeling a handcuffed youth. Charges of obstruction and disorderly conduct were later dropped against them and the two attorneys hired attorney Jonathan Moore and the civil rights suit began.
On Monday, the team of attorneys noted that the saga of police misconduct and brutality is still not over, as reforms and a “change in leadership” must occur.
Evelyn Warren said the case speaks to a graver issue that is disturbingly common in the inner city and affects a cross section of the mostly Black and Latino male population in general, whether professional, highly educated or not so much; the unemployed, students or the average working man.
Looking over at his wife as they held hands, Michael Warren said had it not been for the heavy stress that comes with the trial and his concern for how it would affect her, they might have chosen to ignore the offer.
“We listened to our attorneys. We had been prepared to go into court and fight this,” Michael Warren said. “I got every indication that this would be a trial that would be heavily attended by the public. That would have been very instructive to the jury.”
“They were justly compensated,” Moore told the AmNews. “It was large enough that the city knows that there was wrongdoing by these officers, but the remaining question is whether the city will do something about these officers. This is only one of several cases these officers are all involved in–they all have two or three lawsuits against them.”
Even in light of the city virtually admitting that what the officers did was so egregious they had to fork over a substantial amount of money to correct it, Moore stated, “Talvy was promoted to lieutenant, a lot of the officers were promoted to detective, so they felt no hindrance to their careers. And that’s what’s unfortunate about it.
“They’ve paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars to victims because of these same officers.”
The young man involved in the violent arrest that caught the Warrens’ eye also sued and ended up receiving $45,0000, said Moore.
“Still, the city won’t do anything. They won’t look at the incident and say, ‘Maybe we’ve got a problem here.’ It’s the cost of business. Like they are going to keep stopping and frisking 800,000 people a year now. The [message is] they can act with impunity.
“The only reason Mr. and Mrs. Warren aren’t dead today is because they acted with tremendous self-restraint when they were attacked by Sgt. Talvy and his officers. There is an atmosphere of lawlessness that exists in the Police Department and Commissioner [Raymond] Kelly and Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg don’t want to deal with it,” Moore said.
Michael Warren told the AmNews, “I wanted to fight this case because I think it is important–if any member of our community is affected adversely by the acts of the police, it’s important that there is a trial — a public hearing–to occur, so that public can witness firsthand what has taken place that gave rise to that injustice.”
In a scathing attack, he continued, “Those people who are in positions of leadership have not come out and spoken forcefully on these issues, because a lot of them have been compromised in one way or another, and I think that is the foul legacy of the Bloomberg administration. He has co-opted, through his money, certain individuals and paralyzed or immobilized them in terms of preventing them in engaging in activities that challenge the policies of his Police Department.”
Barely pausing to savor their win against the city, NYPD and Police Commissioner Kelly, Evelyn Warren said that, looking forward, “People in the community need to demand that, as part of his or her platform, any mayoral candidate addresses not just violence against The Community but also stop and frisk, which is a form of violence.”
“The settlement agreed to by Michael and Evelyn Warren is a real victory for the countless number of individuals who valiantly and vigorously assert and defend their God-given and constitutional rights, even in the face of a seemingly omnipotent government agency,” said retired detective Marq Claxton, founder of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance.
“I’m sure it has been an arduous and emotionally taxing process for the Warrens, but they stayed the course and provided us all with a blueprint for challenging a police department’s perceived immunity from prosecution for systemic constitutional violations,” Claxton said. “This legal journey began because the Warrens didn’t remain silent when they witnessed police abuse. The larger community must exert that same level of courage to challenge not only the individual police officers, but the system that encourages the abuse.”