The city will pay out $1.6 million to settle a pair of unrelated lawsuits that both accuse NYPD officers of brutally beating two men who were stopped for allegedly drinking in public. Both men are represented by high-profile defense attorney Sanford Rubenstein, whose previous clients have included police torture victim Abner Louima. In both cases, his clients insist they were carrying unopened beverage containers when they were stopped and beaten by cops.
Hector Munoz, 56, was approaching his East New York apartment building in 2007 when a man wearing a hoodie bolted from a car in his direction. Munoz ran because he thought he was about to be attacked—and he was, by undercover officer Christopher Esposito, who testified that he was wearing his badge around his neck when he ran toward Munoz. Munoz, his wife Piedad, and daughter Jacqueline claim they were beaten by cops responding to the suddenly escalating incident, and their apartment was ransacked in the process.
The city settled Munoz's lawsuit last month for $775,000 as a jury was being empaneled. Rubenstein's other client, who asked to remain anonymous, will get $850,000. He suffered fractures to his eye socket, jaw, neck, two fingers and ankle after he allegedly resisted arrest when cops accused him of drinking a beer on Lenox Avenue in Harlem. “He was choked and beaten with fists, feet and clubs by as many as eight cops,” Rubenstein tells the Daily News. “He was a bloody mess.”
Between 2007 to 2011, more than 600,000 New Yorkers were issued $25 fines for drinking in public, and it's by far the most frequent violation. But there's hope—earlier this year we found a loophole of sorts, after a Brooklyn woman saw her ticket for drinking wine in public thrown out by a judge, because the officer did not write down the brand of alcohol on the ticket. Attorney David Rankin of Rankin & Taylor told us:
The police must note on the summons the actual brand of alcohol or do a lab test. The reason for this is the statute says the drink must contain more than 0.005 by volume in order to fall under this law. So, the court must have reason to believe the beverage in question has more than 0.5% or the summons gets tossed.
So pour your unidentified liquid into a nondescript container and you should be good to go! Unfortunately, there's still no loophole for avoiding a beat down from the NYPD.