UTICA, N.Y. — The jury in a Syracuse police brutality trial has sided with a man beaten in a bloody arrest, awarding him and his family more than $1.5 million.
Alonzo Grant, 57, sued the city of Syracuse and police officers Damon Lockett and Paul Montalto alleging they used excessive force and falsely arrested him in June 2014.
After a two-week trial and about two days of deliberations a jury of six people sided with Grant on nearly all of his claims, according to Grant’s attorney Charles Bonner.
The jury found Lockett and Montalto used excessive force, falsely arrest Grant, and assaulted him during the arrest.
Grant’s attorneys attempted to prove a pattern of excessive force and a lack of discipline as part of their case. The jury declined to hold the city liable for those claims.
The jury awarded Grant $1,130,000. It awarded his wife Stephanie $450,000.
“This is a huge day for the Constitution,” Bonner said. “It’s good for the people, in Syracuse and across the U.S.”
Asked how the Grants were feeling, Bonner said Alonzo was vindicated once again. He noted District Attorney William Fitzpatrick cleared Grant of the disorderly conduct and resisting arrest charges lodged by Lockett and Montalto.
“As DA Fitzpatrick said, Alonzo did nothing wrong,” Bonner said. “The jury found the same: He did nothing wrong.”
Over the telephone, Alonzo could be heard saying he felt great.
“Beautiful,” he said in the background of the call.
Grant was arrested on June 28, 2014 after he called 911 for help with a family dispute. He wanted his daughter, who was pregnant and yelling outside, to leave his house.
When police arrived, Grant’s daughter was gone, but the officers continued to investigate.
They claimed Grant was “highly agitated” and punched a screen door, giving them probable cause to make an arrest. The officers argued they were justified in their actions, including using force such as punches and knee strikes.
When an officer tried to grab Grant, a physical altercation ensued, leaving Grant with multiple injuries, including a broken nose and a busted lip. He spent the night in jail and appeared before a judge the next day.
Grant had never been arrested or charged with a crime prior to the June arrest.
DA William Fitzpatrick and Syracuse police chief Frank Fowler both testified as part of the two-week trial before U.S. District Court Judge David Hurd.
Bonner said he and the rest of Grant’s legal team will hold a press conference Wednesday at 1 p.m. in front of City Hall.
In a emailed statement about two hours after the verdict, the city’s top lawyer said she was disappointed in the jury’s decision.
“We continue to believe our officers acted properly in what was a very difficult situation,” Corporation Counsel Kristen Smith said in the written statement. “We’re going to review the verdict and consider our options for appeal.”
Jeff Piedmonte, the head of the Syracuse police union who was present for several days of the trial, said he believes jurors was prejudiced by evidence the judge allowed them to hear regarding the Citizen Review Board.
The CRB investigates allegations of police misconduct, and found the officers in this case used excessive force and lied in their police reports. The jury heard about multiple CRB cases, almost all of which did not involve these officers.
“It just isn’t appropriate that a court is allowing CRB findings to be used against the officers that have nothing to do with them,” Piedmonte said.
The Syracuse Police Benevolent Association president said he’d heard from other officers who wondered what the verdict meant for them.
“It makes people nervous to go out and do their job,” Piedmonte said. He said he had spoken with Montalto and Lockett, and both were very upset about the verdict.
“They both know they didn’t do anything wrong,” Piedmonte said.
Julie McMahon, “Jury awards Syracuse man $1.5 million: Cops used excessive force in bloody arrest”, https://www.syracuse.com/crime/2018/10/jury_awards_syracuse_man_15_million_finds_cops_beat_him_in_violent_arrest.html