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Family Brutalized by U.S. Marshals in Justice Sotomayor Houses Files Federal Lawsuit

New York, NY – This morning, a single mother of two children living in Justice Sotomayor Houses in the Bronx, along with her brother and nine-year old daughter, filed a civil rights lawsuit in Manhattan federal court against the United States and sixteen United States Marshals. Without any basis, the Complaint alleges, the marshals punched, kicked and beat her brother, forced him to sit on a hot radiator, threatened to kill him, terrorized her 4- and 9-year old children, invaded her apartment without a warrant, and threatened to take away her benefits, her apartment, her children, and her freedom.

As alleged in the Complaint, the marshals said: “We can do whatever we want, we’re the feds.” “We don’t need a warrant.” “I should kill you right now.” “You’re lucky I don’t pull out my gun and shoot you.” “There are 7 of us, 1 of you. Who’s the judge going to believe?” “We’re the federal government – we can do whatever the fuck we want.”

After this terror, the marshals never arrested anyone in the family, and never apologized. Elva Rosa, the lead plaintiff, is an active member of her school’s PTA, and a supermarket cashier.

“These marshals acted like some sort of lawless gang. It’s appalling,” said Ilann M. Maazel, lead counsel, and a lawyer at Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady. “Would this happen on Park Avenue?  Never. But in the Bronx, there is no justice even in the former residence of a Supreme Court Justice. This should never happen in America, anywhere.”

The marshals left the family fearful and traumatized. Even now, Ms. Rosa’s daughter prays the marshals won’t take her mom away, and her four-year old son pretends to hold a gun and says: “Marshal, put your fucking hands up!”

Ilann M. Maazel and David Lebowitz represent the family.  To read coverage in the N.Y. Daily News, click here. To read coverage in the New York Law Journal, click here.

Article

Haggis Abandons Case against Haleigh Breest

Late yesterday, director Paul Haggis abandoned his lawsuit against Haleigh Breest. A lower court dismissed Haggis’ case on August 14, 2018, and Haggis quietly dropped his appeal yesterday.

Though the Haggis case against Ms. Breest is over, Ms. Breest’s sexual assault case against Mr. Haggis continues.

Read more about the case here, here, and here.

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Ilann M. Maazel Published in the New York Law Journal

The New York City Victims of Gender-Motivated Violence Protection Act

Civil Rights Litigation columnist Ilann M. Maazel writes: “Here in New York City, we have another statute, virtually unknown and unused. It is the New York City Victims of Gender-Motivated Violence Protection Act (for present purposes, “the Act”). In the #MeToo era, every civil rights lawyer in New York City should know, and where appropriate, use, the Act.”

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Historic Settlement in Pennsylvania

ECBA has settled the 2016 Pennsylvania recount case brought by presidential candidate Jill Stein and Pennsylvania voters. The lawsuit challenged Pennsylvania’s use of paperless voting systems, as well as its byzantine, anti-voter recount procedures.

The settlement requires Pennsylvania to provide voter-verifiable paper ballots to all voters by 2020, and automatic, robust, statewide election audits by 2022.

“With this settlement, Pennsylvania will go from an election integrity backwater to a national leader,” said Ilann M. Maazel. “We will be watching closely to ensure Pennsylvania implements every one of these important election reforms.”

The Pennsylvania plaintiffs are represented by Ilann M. Maazel, Ali Frick, and Doug Lieb, as well as co-counsel Montgomery McCracken Walker & Rhoads. In addition, Jonathan Abady and Andrew G. Celli Jr. represented the overall Stein 2016 recount effort.

The settlement can be found here. The press release is here.

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

ECBA is proud to announce that partners Richard Emery, Andrew Celli, Matthew Brinckerhoff, Jonathan Abady, Ilann Maazel, Earl Ward, Hal Lieberman, Dan Kornstein, Andrew Wilson, and Elizabeth Saylor were named as Super Lawyers for 2018. Partners Zoe Salzman and Sam Shapiro 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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Exoneree Sues New Haven Police for 17 Years of Wrongful Imprisonment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

CONTACT:

Ilann M. Maazel, ECBA, 212.763.5000, imaazel@www.ecbalaw.com

Sean McElligott, Koskoff, 203.336.4421 smcelligott@koskoff.com

 

 

September 7, 2018 ­­– Vernon Horn, who was exonerated in April 2018 after spending 17 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, today filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of New Haven, three New Haven detectives, and a state firearms examiner.  The New Haven Police Department (NHPD) hid 137 pages of exculpatory phone records in a detective’s home basement, failed to investigate evidence that would have proven Mr. Horn’s innocence, and coerced witnesses against him.  Mr. Horn is represented by the law firms of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP and Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, P.C.

 

Mr. Horn was convicted of murder for a shooting at the Dixwell Deli in New Haven on January 24, 1999. A cell phone stolen from the murder scene was a key piece of evidence at trial.  The state claimed that Mr. Horn had taken the phone to Bridgeport, given it to his accomplice, brought it back to New Haven the next day, and lent it to a friend to make a call.

 

In fact, the stolen cell phone never left Bridgeport, and Mr. Horn never touched it.  Evidence proving as much was readily available to the NHPD all along, but detectives never bothered to ask for it.  Phone records showed that every call from the stolen cell phone was linked to the same crew of Bridgeport drug dealers.  But instead of turning those records over to Mr. Horn, as the Constitution requires, the NHPD buried them in a basement.

 

This and other new evidence was discovered only because the Federal Public Defender for the District of Connecticut doggedly reinvestigated the case.  In April 2018, in response to the new evidence uncovered by the investigation, the State’s Attorney’s Office moved to vacate Mr. Horn’s conviction and dismiss the charges.  Mr. Horn’s co-defendant, Marquis Jackson, was also exonerated and released.

 

Today’s lawsuit, filed in United States District Court for the District of Connecticut, seeks damages for the 17 dehumanizing years that Mr. Horn spent in prison as an innocent man.  While in prison, Mr. Horn was assaulted by inmates, strip-searched by guards, held in solitary confinement, and denied essential medical care for serious injuries suffered in a car accident.  His young daughter began to grow up without him.

Mr. Horn said:

First and foremost, I would like to thank the Most High for allowing me to make it through this injustice.  I would like to thank my attorneys David Keenan and Terence Ward of the Connecticut Federal Public Defender Office for securing my freedom.

What happened to me was not only a crime against me, but it was a crime against humanity.  I was falsely prosecuted and lied about by people who are supposed to be public servants.  I suffered emotionally, and I was physically and mentally abused in prison.  I was not able to go to college and learn the things a man should know.  I was taken away from my first child when she was only 10 months old.

After being released, I was put back into the world without any help and without an apology.  The thing that hurts the most is that my daughter does not know me.  After what happened, I cannot trust anyone or hold on to relationships because I think everyone is trying to hurt me.

I hope that people who are a part of the criminal justice system learn from what was done to me.  They need to know that there are more innocent men and women who have been framed and falsely accused.  It is real, and it needs to end.

 

Ilann M. Maazel, partner at Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP, and counsel for Mr. Horn, said:

The New Haven Police Department stole the prime of Vernon Horn’s life.  This was a complete breakdown in the criminal justice system.  We intend to hold the police and everyone responsible for this travesty of justice accountable.

 

Sean McElligott, a lawyer at Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, P.C., and counsel for Mr. Horn, said:

After seventeen years of lies and betrayal, Vernon Horn will finally have the opportunity to speak the truth through this lawsuit.  We look forward to helping him gain some measure of peace after decades of wrongful incarceration and suffering.   

Matt Blumenthal, a lawyer at Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, P.C., and counsel for Mr. Horn, said:

We all depend on law enforcement to act with competence and integrity. Vernon Horn suffered a spectacular betrayal of this trust. We are proud to stand with him in his fight for justice and accountability.

 

The complaint is available here.

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Settlement Reached in Challenge to Bronx Court Delays

ECBA, The Bronx Defenders, and Morrison & Foerster, LLP announced a settlement of a lawsuit challenging widespread delays in misdemeanor cases in Bronx Criminal Court.

The settlement agreement allows the plaintiffs to monitor the court system for the next four years and to re-open the case if not enough progress is made. It also creates a new mechanism for people charged with misdemeanors to request a speedy trial, at which point the court system will be required to track the progress of their case.

Since the May 2016 filing of the lawsuit, Trowbridge v. DiFiore, the number of misdemeanor cases pending for more than a year in the Bronx dropped from 2,378 to 513.  The number of misdemeanor cases pending for more than two years dropped from 538 to 64.  But more work remains to be done: the proportion of misdemeanor cases that are more than a year old in the Bronx is still twice as high as in any other borough.

“This settlement is only the beginning,” ECBA partner Ilann M. Maazel told the press. “We will be watching the Bronx court system very carefully to make sure that they live up to their promises, achieve parity with the other boroughs, and make speedy trials a reality for everyone in the Bronx.”

Matthew D. Brinckerhoff, Ilann M. Maazel, and Doug Lieb represented the plaintiffs.

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