Sefolosha arrest: Board Arrest Sefolosha

Published: November 25, 2015

Sefolosha arrest: Board Arrest Sefolosha, New York City’s Civilian Complaint Review Board ruled on Monday that the police had no right to arrest Atlanta Hawks basketball player Thabo Sefolosha outside a nightclub in April, but that officers had not used excessive force when they knocked him to the ground and broke his leg.

A three-member panel found that one officer, JohnPaul Giacona, had been discourteous and had abused his authority when he used profanity and threatened to fight Mr. Sefolosha, after asking him several times to move farther away from the nightclub.

The panel also ruled that Officer Giacona and a second officer, Richard Caster, had abused their authority when they arrested Mr. Sefolosha a few minutes later, a finding that means the officers lacked a valid reason to take him into custody.

But the panel cleared the officers of accusations that they had been unduly brutal while subduing Mr. Sefolosha, according to a disposition letter summarizing the board’s findings.

Police Commissioner William J. Bratton could dock Officer Giacona up to 15 days of vacation, if he follows the board’s recommendation. The board also recommended Officer Caster be sent for additional training in proper police procedure.

“We are pleased that C.C.R.B. found his arrest to be completely unlawful,” Mr. Sefolosha’s lawyer, Alex Spiro, said, adding that the N.B.A. player had filed papers signaling that he intended to sue the city.

Officers Giacona and Caster could not be reached for comment on Monday, and messages left with a lawyer and a spokesman for the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association were not returned.

A police spokesman, Sgt. Brendan Ryan, said the department had yet to receive the ruling. “We cannot make a determination of what, if any, discipline may be appropriate,” he said. The board’s decision came six weeks after a Manhattan jury acquitted Mr. Sefolosha of all criminal charges stemming from his confrontation with the police.

After listening to testimony from several police officers involved in the arrest, the jury had decided the basketball star was not guilty of interfering with an investigation, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

Mr. Sefolosha, a 31-year-old guard and forward, had insisted on the trial because, he said, he wanted to hold the police responsible for what he saw as a wrongful arrest and brutal treatment. A small bone in his right leg was fractured during the arrest. He underwent surgery to repair his ankle, missed the playoffs last year and has not fully recuperated from the injury, he said, though he is playing this season.

So intent was Mr. Sefolosha on having his day in court that he had refused an offer from the Manhattan district attorney’s office: Prosecutors said they would dismiss the charges if he did one day of community service and stayed out of trouble for six months. “I just wanted truth to come out,” he said after his acquittal in October.

The trial had underscored a wider debate about police tactics and race that was already active after another professional athlete, the former tennis player James Blake, was mistaken for a suspect in a fraud scheme and forced to the ground roughly and handcuffed by a white officer in September.


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