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Ohio State Admits Dr. Strauss Committed As Many Rapes As the Golden State Killer

In an astonishing development, The Ohio State University has now admitted that its employee, Dr. Richard Strauss, committed 47 rapes and 1,429 sexual assaults of student-patients, over a period of two decades. The admissions, from OSU’s Annual Security Report and website, are here (p. 61, admitting to 992 sexual assaults and 30 rapes reported in 2018) and here (admitting to 437 sexual assaults and 17 rapes by Strauss reported so far this year). (The Golden State Killer is reported to have committed approximately 45-50 rapes.)

These numbers dwarf the previously reported 177 sexual assaults of OSU student-patients in a report from Perkins Coie, the law firm hired by The Ohio State University’s Special Counsel. That report found that “Despite the persistence, seriousness, and regularity of … complaints” of sexual abuse from students since 1979, “no meaningful action was taken by the University to investigate the concerns until January 1996.”

“This is one of the biggest sexual abuse scandals in U.S. history, said Ilann M. Maazel, co-counsel for survivor Steve Snyder-Hill and 76 other plaintiffs. “No words can describe the scope, the scale, or the appalling nature of OSU’s failure to protect its own students.”

“Ohio State claims it is being transparent by reporting nearly 1500 incidents of rape and sexual assault by Dr. Strauss, but it still refuses to disclose how many students were abused,” said Adele P. Kimmel, also co-counsel. “Ohio State knows how many students have reported abuse by Strauss and should disclose that to the public. It is clearly far more than the 177 students referenced in the Perkins Coie report.”

“This new information further shows OSU has known but continues to conceal evidence of Dr. Strauss’s serial sexual abuse. They were guilty of covering it up then and they are guilty of covering it up today,” said Scott E. Smith, also co-counsel.

The plaintiffs in this case are represented by Ilann M. Maazel, Debra Greenberger, and Marissa Benavides of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP, Scott E. Smith and Brian Noethlich of Scott Elliot Smith LPA, and Adele Kimmel of Public Justice. More on the case is available at www.osusurvivors.com.

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“Bronx Zoo” Case Settles for $6 Million and Transfer of Control of State Facility

As reported in the New York Times, the New York Post, the Daily News, and elsewhere,…

New York, NY – This morning, three families settled a lawsuit in Manhattan federal court alleging abuse of disabled residents in a State-run group home in the Bronx. The lawsuit revealed years of shocking abuse and neglect in the Bronx home, including staff who gave disabled residents black eyes, pulled their hair, spit in their faces, kicked them, sexually abused them, withheld food from them, showered them in frigid water, and botched their medical care.

The group home is run by the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (“OPWDD”), a New York State agency. Whistleblowers testified that staff acted “like prison guards,” “operated like a gang,” and treated disabled resident like “animals in the zoo.”[1] Some staff referred to the group home as “the Bronx Zoo.” In sworn testimony, OPWDD’s then-Commissioner, Kerry A. Delaney, described State employees’ conduct as “utterly shocking,” admitted that defendants “failed their duty to protect individuals in that home,” and called the home “a disaster.” A copy of the complaint is here.

Under the settlement, the State will pay $6 million, believed to be one of the largest settlements in OPWDD history. In addition, the State will permanently relinquish control of the home, known as the Union Avenue IRA, to a nonprofit provider. Finally, the individual staff will never be permitted to reenter Union Avenue as long as any of the three disabled residents reside there.

“From the very top to the very bottom, OPWDD failed my sister on every level. I hope and pray that all the individuals living at Union Avenue will now live happy, healthy, fear-free lives, once OPWDD turns over control of Union Avenue to a nonprofit provider,” said Laura Kearins, sister of one of the plaintiffs. “I’m completely saddened and heartbroken. How can people prey on the innocent with no remorse? We will move forward trying to repair the damage that was done,” said Barbara Melendez, sister to another plaintiff.

“This is one of the most appalling disability abuse cases I’ve seen in over twenty years of practice,” said Ilann M. Maazel, lead counsel for the families, and a partner at Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady.  “How could so many New York State employees brutalize so many people, for so long, while no staff or supervisor did a thing about it? This case is a wake-up call for massive reform in this State agency.”

Even today, many former Union Avenue staff with claims of abuse or neglect substantiated by the Justice Center work with disabled residents in other group homes run by New York State; many were not disciplined at all. David Lebowitz, another attorney for the families, called this “a scandal and a disgrace.” “Hopefully, this case and this settlement can shine a light on the structural issues that allow abusive staff to work with disabled people without consequence,” said Ashok Chandran, another attorney for the families.

Maazel and ECBA were also counsel in the cases of Jonathan Carey, Eddie Velasquez, and K.C.

For more information, contact:

Ilann M. Maazel, David Lebowitz, or Ashok Chandran
Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP (in New York)
212-763-5000
imaazel@ecbalaw.com
dlebowitz@ecbalaw.com
achandran@ecbalaw.com

 

[1] As one staff member, Shirlynn Thomas, testified: “Q: Would you ever leave your child in the care of Linton, Conner, Tucker or Teams? A: Not my dog.  I wouldn’t leave my dog.”

Article

Ten ECBA Attorneys Named as Super Lawyers; Four Named as Rising Stars

ECBA is proud to announce that partners Richard EmeryAndrew CelliMatthew BrinckerhoffJonathan AbadyIlann MaazelEarl WardHal LiebermanDan KornsteinAndrew Wilson, and Elizabeth Saylor were named as Super Lawyers for 2019. Partners Zoe Salzman and Sam Shapiro and associates David Lebowitz and Alanna Kaufman were named as Rising Stars.

The Super Lawyers list is issued by Thompson Reuters. A description of the selection methodology can be found here.

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ECBA Clients Win Article 78 Petition Requiring NYPD to Produce Fare Evasion Data

On September 23, 2019 state Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron granted an Article 78 Petition filed by ECBA on behalf of clients Council Member Rory I. Lancman and the Community Service Social of New York (“CSSNY”).   The order compels  the New York City Police Department to disclose statistics, which are required to be made public by City Law, regarding arrests made and civil summonses issued to individuals for fare evasion at each of the 472 subway stations in New York City.  These statistics, which will provide the public with an important tool ensure accountability from the Police Department.

After CSSNY issued a detailed report reflecting that the vast majority of arrests and summonses for subway fare evasion occur in poor African-American communities, Council Member Lancman introduced legislation requiring the Police Department to release quarterly reports detailing the number of arrests under New York Penal Law § 165.15 and summonses under MTA Rule of Conduct § 1050.4 that were issued for fare evasion at each subway station throughout New York City and to break down the data by various demographic criteria, such as the race, gender, and age range of each person arrested or summonsed.  Council Member’s Lancman’s proposed bill was unanimously approved by the City Council and went into law as New York City Administrative Code § 14-172 in January 2018.  Since the law’s enactment, the Police Department had brazenly refused to comply with its obligations.  Yesterday’s ruling will ensure that the City will receive the transparency that the City Council has required and that the public deserves.

Coverage of the decision in the New York Post is here.

The Petitioners are represented by ECBA attorneys Richard D. Emery and David Berman.

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ECBA Files Notice of Intent to Sue Police Officers Who Shot and Killed Osaze Osagie

ECBA, along with co-counsel, filed a Notice of Claim today on behalf of Sylvester and Iyunolu Osagie, the parents of 29-year-old Osaze Osagie, indicating their intent to sue the Pennsylvania State College Police Department (“SCPD”) and the officers who six months ago shot and killed their then 29-year old son. Sylvester Osagie asked the police to help him find Osaze, so that he could secure treatment for his suicidal son who was suffering a serious mental health crisis. Instead of helping Osaze, an officer shot him three times in the back, killing him.

“The mental health processes in place failed our son. The police procedures also failed our son. And the officers who responded to our son’s apartment failed him as well. We are bringing this case to make sure Osaze is the last person to die under such circumstances,” said Sylvester Osagie.

“Osaze would still be alive today if the police had followed standard procedures for handling mental health emergencies. This tragic loss of life didn’t have to happen; Osaze Osagie did not have to die.” said ECBA partner Andrew G. Celli, Jr.

Read the press release and coverage of the filing here, here, here and here.

ECBA partners Andrew G. Celli, Jr. and Elizabeth Saylor represent the family along with Pennsylvania lawyers Andrew Shubin and Kathleen Yurchak.

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ECBA Files Case for Innocent Man Who Spent 20 Years in Jail

ECBA filed a case in the Eastern District of Michigan today against Detroit Police Department officers whose misconduct resulted in the wrongful conviction of Kendrick Scott, an innocent man. Detroit Police Department officers framed Mr. Scott for murder by beating up an illiterate, intoxicated sixteen-year-old boy until he falsely inculpated Mr. Scott and threatening another teenager with a history of mental illness to do the same. They concealed evidence that pointed to the victim’s husband as the likely true culprit. They threw Mr. Scott in jail, then they threw away the key.

After nearly 20 years of proclaiming his innocence and fighting to be exonerated, Mr. Scott was finally released in November 2018. Through this case, Mr. Scott hopes to vindicate his civil rights, shine the light on police abuse, and bring an end to a decades-long injustice.

“No amount of money can properly compensate Mr. Scott for the loss of twenty years of his life,” said ECBA partner Zoe Salzman.

“Mr. Scott’s story is tragic for its familiarity: a young black man, framed by police through a pattern of egregious misconduct, lost nearly two decades of his life for no reason,” said ECBA attorney Ashok Chandran.

Read more about the complaint and press coverage of the case here.

ECBA attorneys Zoe Salzman and Ashok Chandran  represent Mr. Scott.

Article

Federal Court of Appeals Reinstates Emoluments Clause Lawsuit Against Trump

On September 13, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reinstated a landmark federal lawsuit in New York against Donald Trump, prompted by his violations of the Domestic and Foreign Emoluments Clauses of the United States Constitution.  The Second Circuit’s decision means that Trump may be ordered to provide extensive discovery into his business dealings with foreign and state governments.  ECBA previously filed an amicus curiae brief in the District Court in support of the Plaintiff, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, on behalf of Sarah P. Chayes, an internationally-recognized expert in corruption and kleptocratic regimes.

The New York Times, the Washington Post, Politico, and the New York Law Journal, among others, have covered this recent development.  The Second Circuit’s decision is available here.

ECBA attorneys Ilann M. Maazel and Emma L. Freeman represent Sarah Chayes.

Article

Court Grants Preliminary Injunction and Article 78 Petition Blocking Construction in Two Bridges Neighborhood

On August 1, 2019, state Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron granted a preliminary injunction and Article 78 Petition blocking the construction of four massive towers in the Two Bridges neighborhood in Manhattan.  The New York City Council, represented by ECBA, and the Manhattan Borough President sued the City’s development agencies for avoiding the City’s public land use review process, known as ULURP, which requires final approval by the City Council.  ECBA attorneys Andrew G. Celli Jr.Debbie Greenberger, and David Berman represent the New York City Council.

The decision was covered by the New York Times,  New York Post, Gothamist, and Curbed.

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Jazmine Headley Files Civil Rights Lawsuit Against The City Of New York

Today, ECBA client Jazmine Headley filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of New York and its Human Resources Administration (“HRA”) peace officers and New York City Police Department (“NYPD”) officers who attacked and arrested her at the DeKalb Job Center on December 7, 2018.  Simply because Ms. Headley was sitting on the floor waiting for her appointment, these officers brandished a taser in Ms. Headley’s face, forcibly yanked her one-year-old son from her arms, charged her with several crimes, and detained her on Rikers Island for days.  Her experience is just one example of HRA security staff’s widespread abuse of New Yorkers who seek assistance with their public benefits.

Ms. Headley is represented by ECBA attorneys Katie Rosenfeld and Emma Freeman.  The Complaint is available here.  A press release about the filing is available here.

To learn more, read coverage from the New York Law Journal, Politico, the New York Post, and Patch.

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ECBA Client Files Civil Rights Lawsuit Against The City Of New York for Abuse of Power

Juliet Dietrich—a disabled, 68-year-old former corrections officer—has filed suit against the City of New York and Department of Citywide Administrative Services Special Officer Charles Parker for false arrest and excessive force.

On August 6, 2018, Special Officer Parker pulled her from her car and arrested her over a perceived parking violation. Ms. Dietrich’s permit for her disability allowed her to use spaces designated for “any governmental agency.” Nonetheless, Special Officer Parker was angry that Ms. Dietrich was occupying a parking spot reserved for those associated with the Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. Apparently, an able-bodied member of the Borough President’s administration—David Johnson—had demanded that her car be moved. Special Officer Parker reached into the car, grabbed Ms. Dietrich by the arm and yanked her from the vehicle onto the street. Special Officer Parker then arrested Ms. Dietrich on false charges. Ms. Dietrich had no record. But because of the defendants, she was held in custody for more than twelve hours and then forced to fight false charges against her for nine months. Ms. Dietrich’s case challenges this abuse of power on the doorstep of Brooklyn’s Borough Hall.

Ms. Dietrich is represented by ECBA attorneys O. Andrew F. Wilson and Alanna Kaufman.  The Complaint is available here.  An article about the case in the New York Daily News is available here.

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