A Manhattan Federal Court judge did double duty as the fashion police yesterday, when he ordered a groovy balloon artist who's suing police to go change out of his tie-dyed T-shirt, tie-dyed patchwork overalls, and far-out multicolored sneakers. Russian immigrant Alexander "Sasha" Alhovsky, 40, was in the court room during jury selection for the lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages over claims that the NYPD used excessive force when he was taken into custody in June 2006, on suspicion of planting a fake bomb inside an UES Starbucks three days earlier.
But the device was actually a battery-powered balloon pump inside a black fanny pack; Alhovsky used the thing to make balloon animals for kids. Yesterday, Alhovsky claimed he accidentally left his rainbow-striped pump in the Starbucks because he was "spaced out" after a long day working with balloons in the park. But a lawyer for the city argues that terrorist bombers often conduct a "test run" by planting a fake device to see how officials react. The NYPD Bomb Squad had responded to the scene, X-rayed it on the sidewalk and disconnected the power before finally concluding it was harmless.
As Alhovsky arrived at Central Park on his bike three days later, bike-patrol cops rolled up to him; he claims one ran at him with his gun drawn, screaming, "Don't move! I'll blow your fucking head off!" Alhovsky says he was then knocked off his bike and kicked in the kidneys while "somebody stepped on my face." He was allegedly dragged by his hair and slammed into a restaurant window, at which point "one of his overall straps slipped off, sending his pants and stretched-out underwear to his knees in front of a group of neighborhood children,"the Post reports. He was released hours later, but Alhovsky says he still suffers from "depression and paranoia," and now he can't even wear his happy clothes in court.