A homeless man sleeping at a Jewish youth center in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, was roused from his sleep, wrongly accused of trespassing, then repeatedly and violently pummeled by the police after he jerked his hands and held them behind his back in an effort to non-violently avoid being handcuffed.
The homeless man was then falsely accused of causing the officer to suffer a “sprained wrist, bruises, swelling and scrapes” all resulting in the fabricated charges of “felony count of assault on police officers and three misdemeanors: resisting arrest, obstruction and criminal trespass.”
The following video shows police officer Luis A. Vega flying into an uncontrolled animalistic rage against the homeless Ehud Halevy while Officer Vega’s partner Yelena Bruzzese batters the non-threatening man with a truncheon. Any “sprained wrist, bruises, swelling and scrapes” on the officers were caused by their own violence and overreaction not Mr. Halevy’s conduct.
The lapse of judgment, fit of rage, on the part of the police is inexcusable, but what is even more shocking is what follows the vicious beating: a cold-hearted, fabricated police complaint accusing Mr. Halevy of crimes he never committed. Had a video not revealed the truth, Mr. Halevy could very easily be languishing in prison for crimes he never committed.
The complaint portrays a scenario that completely contradicts the video of the incident. The complaint boldly asserts that Mr. Halev was “swinging … [his] … fists and flailing … [his] … arms … striking …[the police] … about the body.” The video shows Mr. Halevy passively attempting to avoid being handcuffed after he jerks his hands in the air. The police then beat him while he’s curled up in a limp fetal position.
In terms of the charge of resisting arrest, New York Penal Law 205.30 requires that an arrest be authorized and lawful for one to be charged with the crime of resisting arrest. In other words, “[i]f the police made an unlawful arrest and you refuse to be handcuffed during that unauthorized arrest, then the charge of Resisting Arrest, pursuant to New York Penal Law 205.30, is not sustainable.” Since it was determined that Mr. Halevy was not trespassing, he cannot be charged with resisting a trespassing-related arrest because the underlying arrest was determined to be unlawful.
The charges against Mr. Halevy need to be summarily dismissed and the police officers involved need to be charged with lying under oath and falsely accusing someone of a crime. If not for the video camera replaying the truth, the officers’ lies could have led to the imprisonment of an innocent man and the cover-up of a brutal beating.
Let’s hope the NYPD seeks to restore their tattered relationship with the citizens of Crown Heights and hold their own rotten apples accountable.
The writer is a graduate of the City University of New York School of Law, where he served as an executive editor of the law review. He has advocated for gender equality, sexual abuse awareness and better police-community relations in Crown Heights.