William Cardoza, 57, charged that he was maliciously prosecuted and beaten by cops in 2008 when they stopped him outside his home for having an open container of beer.
The two-minute confrontation caught on videotape was sparked by the cops demanding to see identification and Cardoza being slow to respond. Pepper sprayed in the eyes, he grabbed a fence in his building’s courtyard where one officer, trying to dislodge him, whacked Cardoza’s right hand repeatedly with a baton.
Cardoza’s hand required surgery to repair an open fracture and dislocation.
He was charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct. Criminal charges were ultimately dismissed.
At a civil trial, the arresting officer, Benjamin Perez, denied that he ever told prosecutors that Cardoza had tried to “punch” him. The baton-swinging officer, Carlos Mendez, accused Cardoza of deliberately refusing to cooperate with a police demand to produce identification.
The jury found that Perez violated Cardoza’s civil rights by providing false information to the Bronx DA’s office which resulted in criminal charges. Jurors also concluded that Mendez used excessive force.
The jury awarded Cardoza $700,000 in punitive damages for each cop and $2.5 million from the city for past and future pain and suffering.
Bronx Supreme Court Justice Howard Sherman tossed the verdict against the cops by ruling that the evidence didn’t support the decision and ordered a new trial on past and future pain and suffering unless Cardoza agreed to take a total of $350,000.
But a panel of five appellate judges ruled Tuesday that Sherman had “impermissibly usurped the jury’s role and made factual determinations” and it reinstated the verdict.
In a decision written by judge Barbara Kapnick, the panel said there was enough evidence for the jury to “have reasonably concluded that Perez and Mendez acted with reckless indifference or malice when they, respectively, initiated the prosecution…and used excessive force.”
The panel said Cardoza was entitled to $75,000 in punitive damages from each cop and $1.65 million for past and future suffering. They also rejected Sherman’s refusal to give him legal fees and ordered him to determine a reasonable amount.