10 of the Biggest NYPD Lawsuits in History

The NYPD has existed since 1845. As such, it is one of the oldest police forces in the United States. Over its existence, the NYPD has seen a considerable number of lawsuits. Some of them have been better known than others for one reason or another.

Here are 10 of the most infamous NYPD lawsuits ever:

10. Corruption in the 75th Precinct

People have an interest in true crime stories. As a result, there is a regular succession of documentaries and other shows about these cases. Rotten Tomatoes describes The Seven Five as a documentary about ex-NYPD officer Michael Dowd and others’ crimes in the 1980s and early 1990s.

How Michael Dowd Went Astray

Dowd claimed that he needed money while feeling unappreciated for his work in what was once considered one of the most dangerous precincts in the United States. Whatever his motivations, he became involved in the crimes he was supposed to work.

For example, he started robbing drug dealers. Similarly, he started distributing the stolen drugs. On top of this, Dowd even fed information to a criminal organization in exchange for monetary payment.

How Consequences Caught Up With Michael Dowd

In the end, it was the Suffolk County Police Department that put a stop to Dowd’s activities by picking up on how he and his partner were distributing cocaine in their jurisdiction through a friend.

The two were arrested before being released on bail. Subsequently, Dowd agreed to kidnap a woman over unpaid drug debts, by which he intended to raise the money he needed to flee to Nicaragua.

He tried to convince his partner to join him. A decision that backfired because his partner promptly reported the whole thing to Internal Affairs. Thanks to this, Dowd received 14 years in prison for racketeering and conspiring to distribute narcotics.

In contrast, his partner didn’t spend any time imprisoned because of his willingness to cooperate with the investigation.

9. The Two NYPD Officers On the Mafia Payroll

Dowd and his partner weren’t the only NYPD officers working with organized crime in that period. After all, SI Live reports that Stephen Caracappa and Louis Eppolito were convicted for a host of crimes in 2009.

One received a life sentence plus 80 years, while the other received a life sentence plus 100 years. Both were fined more than $4 million. On top of that, New York City had to pay $18.4 million to settle the lawsuits brought by the families of their victims.

Murder, Conspiracy to Commit Murder, and More

By this point, chances are good that interested individuals can guess Caracappa and Eppolito’s crimes were worse than Dowd’s. Specifically, they were convicted of eight murders and other mafia-related crimes.

Moreover, Caracappa and Eppolito didn’t stop after they left the NYPD in the mid-1990s. Instead, they continued working for the mafia while they were in Los Vegas. Eppolito was particularly brazen.

At one point, he wrote a book depicting himself as an honest police officer who struggled to avoid becoming entangled with the mafia despite his familial connections.

8. NBA Player Sues Over Broken Leg

Thabo Sefolosha is a former basketball player in the NBA and other professional basketball leagues. In 2015, he became incapable of playing for the rest of the regular season because of the NYPD.

The latter claimed that Sefolosha and his teammate were obstructing their investigation of the Chris Copeland stabbing. Whatever the case, they subdued the two, which resulted in a scuffle in Sefolosha’s case.

The Incident Caught On Video

Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t long before TMZ and other publications made more information known to the public. Something that resulted in a fair amount of controversy over whether the rough treatment was warranted. After all, five police officers tackled Sefolosha.

Furthermore, one of them fractured his tibia with a baton. Sefolosha received $4.5 million in a settlement because his injury made him incapable of playing basketball for that year.

7. Whistleblower Sues For Being Taken to a Mental Hospital

There is a widespread belief that whistleblowers play a critical role in keeping organizations honest. Essentially, the idea is that they can bring problematic details to light when internal mechanisms designed to ensure accountability are compromised.

Despite this, there are numerous stories of whistleblowers being treated poorly. The NYPD has had more than one case throughout its existence.

The Honest Cop Sent to a Mental Institution

Adrian Schoolcraft is an ex-NYPD officer who revealed false arrests, ticket quotas, and statistical manipulation that made for better numbers at the 81st Precinct. Indeed, New York says he collected an enormous amount of evidence.

Then, he revealed his concerns to his superiors. Soon enough, NYPD officers arrived at his home while he was sleeping before having him involuntarily committed to a psychiatric ward at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center.

Unsurprisingly, Schoolcraft sued after his father managed to get him out of the hospital, stating that the incident was meant to make his claims less credible. Something that worked on the staff at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center.

Eventually, the NYPD offered a $600,000 settlement in 2015, while the Jamaica Hospital Medical Center offered an unrevealed settlement later in the same year.

6. Family Sues Over Death of Man Put in a Chokehold

Eric Garner’s story should be a familiar one. In short, NYPD officers approached him on suspicion that he was selling single cigarettes without tax stamps in 2014.

There was a dispute, followed by the police putting him in a chokehold, wrestling him to the ground, and pinning him there. Garner said he couldn’t breathe several times, lost consciousness, and died.

The public has engaged in a furious war of claims over the cause of death. However, The New York Times reported that the medical examiner had concluded that Garner died because of the chokehold, with asthma, obesity, and heart disease serving as contributing factors.

National Uproar

There was a national uproar at the time, particularly since the relevant issues were already at the forefront of many people’s minds. It didn’t help that the NYPD itself had prohibited the chokehold, thus raising more questions about the chain of events that had led to the incident.

In the end, New York City agreed to pay a $5.9 million settlement to Garner’s family, though the NYPD officer responsible for the chokehold was never charged.

5. Man Sues Over Being Paralyzed

Gothamist included Jimmy Alvardo in a list of plaintiffs whose lawsuits resulted in expensive settlements from New York City in 2022. As the story goes, he was one of several individuals close to the scene of a fight in 2018. When Alvardo tried to leave, police officers gave chase before one of them tackled him to the ground.

Lifelong Injuries For Leaving the Scene of a Fight

Unfortunately, that fractured his neck and hurt his spinal cord. Moreover, the lawsuit claimed that neither the police officers nor the emergency medical technicians took his complaints seriously, meaning he was brought to the hospital with no effort to protect his neck and back.

Thanks to that, New York City settled for $12 million, which was so high because of the extent of Alvardo’s injury.

4. Man Sues Over Being Convicted of Murder When He Wasn’t in the State

The same article mentioned Shawn Williams, who was arrested in 1995 and not let out until 2018. He was convicted of being a shooter. However, Williams’s lawsuit claimed that the conviction happened on very dubious grounds.

One, he had records showing that he was in Pennsylvania at the time, meaning that he couldn’t have been the one to shoot the victim in New York City. Two, a witness was pressured into identifying him as the shooter even though she never had a good view of what had happened.

One of Several Individuals with Vacated Convictions Because of the Same Officer

Williams’s case was connected to the ex-NYPD officer Louis Scarcella. The man and his partner built a fine reputation for securing convictions in challenging cases. Later, evidence of investigative misconduct emerged, thus resulting in numerous individuals’ convictions being vacated.

Williams received a $10.5 million settlement.

3. Man Sues Because of a Quarter Century in Prison

Another individual on Gothamist’s list is Pablo Fernandez. He served about a quarter century in prison because of investigative misconduct. Specifically, Fernandez was convicted of shooting a man in 1993.

Several witnesses described the shooter as a middle-aged individual who was tall, thin, and lighter-skinned. That was a problem because Fernandez was a darker-skinned teenager with a stocky build. Even their hairstyles didn’t match.

The lawsuit claimed that NYPD officers worked with informants to make up a story. Furthermore, it stated that the latter pressured Fernandez’s cousins into saying he was the shooter.

The Dirty Thirty

It is interesting to note that the lawsuit based part of its case on the 30th Precinct’s notorious reputation in those times. For those unfamiliar, widespread issues from the early to the mid-1990s resulted in it earning the label of the Dirty Thirty.

At one point, some of the NYPD officers were running a cocaine ring, which was made possible by robbing drug dealers before selling the loot at reduced prices. Eventually, a two-year investigation was carried out, which culminated in the arrest of 33 NYPD officers. Regardless, Fernandez received a $12 million settlement.

2. Another Man Sues Because of a Quarter Century in Prison

Pablo Fernandez wasn’t the only man on Gothamist’s list to serve about a quarter century in prison. The other was Samuel Brownridge, who received a $13 million settlement for a 25-year stay until his conviction was vacated in 2020.

He didn’t just miss out on a significant portion of his life; he also missed out on a significant portion of his son’s life. Brownridge said he had just taken his three-year-old son to daycare when he was arrested.

Factors Behind the Largest Settlement of 2022

The lawsuit didn’t point fingers at a single factor. Instead, it blamed what happened on systemic issues that extended to everything from the investigation to the prosecution. In particular, the lawsuit mentioned bad investigative practices from Ray Medina, the ex-NYPD officer who oversaw the case.

On the whole, it was a scathing assessment of the system, which explains why Brownridge’s attorney urged reforms to reduce the chances of similar incidents happening in the future.

1. The Central Park Five

Interested individuals might have heard of the Central Park Five. Their case made national headlines from the start. On top of this, the Central Park Five received renewed interest a few years ago because of Donald Trump’s involvement in the whole mess. The BBC reported that he had spent $85,000 to buy four full-page adverts calling for the return of the death penalty.

Something that had a noticeable effect on how the case was perceived. By the mid-2010s, the Central Park Five had long been exonerated. Even so, Trump continued to stand by his previously expressed opinion.

The Details of the Case

In any case, interested individuals should know the Central Park Five are named thus because they were wrongly convicted for the rape, assault, and other crimes committed against a woman who was jogging in the park.

It was a horrific case. The woman had been so badly beaten that she wasn’t expected to survive, so it was a surprise when she came out of a 12-day coma. Furthermore, there was a racial dimension to the case because the woman is white, while the Central Park Five are black and Latino.

On top of that, the teenagers were convicted on the strength of videotaped confessions that were subsequently withdrawn, which was problematic because those had been acquired after long, drawn-out police interrogations.

How the Central Park Five Were Exonerated

Eventually, the Central Park Five were exonerated when another individual confessed in 2002 to committing the crimes against the woman. There is no doubt about his guilt in the matter. His DNA matched that found at the scene.

Plus, he knew things that had never been revealed to the public. By that point, the Central Park Five had already served their sentences. However, they were able to secure compensation in the form of a $41 million sum from the city and a $3.9 million sum from the state.

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