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College-Bound Brooklyn teen sues NYPD for civil rights violation

Attorney Joel Berger from the website of the law firm Sonnenfeld & Richman LLP

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

A Brooklyn teenager has filed a federal lawsuit against New York City and the New York City Police Department for an alleged false arrest and retaliatory actions.

Rayquan Callahan, 19, had two run-ins with the same police officer within a few weeks of each other.  In February, Callahan met with friends outside of the Rockaway Avenue subway station. NYPD officers, including Officer Daniel Berardi, stopped and frisked Callahan and his friends finding no weapon or any other illegal contraband on Callahan.  One of Callahan’s acquaintances did possess a weapon and Berardi instructed his fellow officers to arrest Callahan. In the arresting papers, Beradi charged Callahan with criminal possession of a weapon in a public place, a C felony, and stated that Callahan was a gang member in a suspected attempt to provide probable cause for the arrest given that no weapon was found on Callahan’s person.    

“[Callahan] is not and never has been a member of any gang, and denied any gang affiliation,” Callahan’s attorney Joel Berger said in court papers. After spending 15 hours behind bars, the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office declined to prosecute the charges against Callahan, who has been accepted to Ohio State University, and subsequently released him.

A suit was filed in Brooklyn’s Federal Court against the NYPD in general and NYPD Officer Berardi, based on the February incident seeking compensatory and punitive for the alleged false arrest of Callahan and the trauma Callahan, a graduate of Brooklyn Collegiate High School, suffered as a result of the arrest. 

In a shocking turn of events, eight days after Callahan filed his initial complaint, Berardi arrested Callahan again, this time for allegedly riding a bicycle on the sidewalk. During the arrest it is alleged that Berardi said to other officers, in Callahan’s presence, “this is the guy who’s suing us” and “I don’t care, the money isn’t coming out of my pocket.”   

Berger filed an amended complaint asserting that the 2nd arrest was in retaliation of the initial false arrest lawsuit. 

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle previously published a story of a Brooklyn man who was falsely arrested three times. Court records show that Joseph Brown had been imprisoned on three occasions. The majority of the charges were dropped and the city settled with Brown for $30,000. 

Brown’s ordeal fits into the category coined by criminal defense attorneys as ‘Usual Suspects:’ persons most often suspected of criminal activity due to a common name, common characteristics, or connection to organized crime or gang activity.   

Callhan’s case, however,  does not fit into the ‘Usual Supsects’ category said Callahan’s attorney. “This is a very unusual case,” Berger told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. “What makes this case unusual is that a lawsuit was filed and then eight days later the same officer arrests the same guy and makes comments," that indicate that his actions were retaliatory. 

Callahan’s case is one of many firsts for veteran attorney Berger. First,  “the precinct initially refused to accept service of the original complaint,” Berger said.   In addition, “this is the first time in many years of representing plaintiffs against the police—as well as eight years on the Executive Staff of the NYC Law Department—that I have encountered such brazen retaliation against a plaintiff by the very officer who has just been sued in a civil rights action,” Berger wrote in a letter to U.S. Magistrate Judge Ramon Reyes, Jr. 

The city requested extended time to reply to Callahan’s complaints. “It is customary that the court would grant the city a requested extension.” Berger noted.   “But the court here recognized that need for close judicial scrutiny in this case.” Reyes denied the city’s request for more time and demanded that the city submit its reply no later than July 31st.

July 29, 2013 - 4:00pm


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