A Freeport man whose arrest by village police in December 2019 was caught on video has filed a $25 million lawsuit against eight Freeport police officers, Nassau County, the Village of Freeport and their police departments.
Attorneys for Akbar Rogers, 45, filed the lawsuit in Nassau state Supreme Court, alleging assault, excessive force, false arrest and imprisonment, last month, nearly a year after they filed a notice of claim.
The lawsuit also alleges that the Nassau and Freeport police departments "failed to investigate . . . [the officers’] background and . . . hired and retained . . . individuals who lacked the maturity, sensibility, and intelligence to be employed by the defendants."
Police were responding to Rogers’ home on Dec. 3, 2019, to make an arrest on a harassment violation charge after Rogers allegedly pushed a pregnant woman to the ground two months earlier.
A neighbor video recorded the arrest, where officers "did beat, punch, kick, tase, threaten, and put full body weight depriving Plaintiff of oxygen and otherwise used excessive force" during Rogers’ arrest, the lawsuit states. Police said afterward that he was resisting arrest.
Nassau County and Freeport officials said last week that they could not comment on pending litigation.
Rogers was charged with misdemeanor resisting arrest and felony assault on police.
The eight officers named in the suit are Michael Kennedy, Vincent Kennedy, Matthew Koutsogiannis, Michael Geniale, Michael Salisbury, Richard Paulik, Kyle Pistani and Thomas Williams.
"Nothing can change the fact that multiple experienced and highly regarded use-of-force experts have reviewed this case with a fine-tooth comb," said Garden City attorney William Petrillo, who is representing the officers. Each has agreed that the officers’ actions were reasonable, necessary and justified under the circumstances."
Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas dismissed the assault and resisting arrest charges against Rogers in July and also declined to charge any of the officers involved in the arrest. Two of them are the sons of Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy.
Singas said at the time of the arrest that the mayor also requested her office conduct an independent investigation. Singas did call for the officers to be disciplined for explicit language during the arrest when Rogers said he could not breathe.
Rogers still faces a harassment violation from 2019 and a misdemeanor contempt charge filed in November.
Randy Zelin, one of Rogers’ attorneys, declined to discuss the pending litigation, but said the officers need to be held accountable after the district attorney declined to file charges. Zelin called the district attorney’s decision "water under the bridge."
"It is no secret we view it as a grave misjudgment and a missed opportunity by the district attorney in a moment the community could feel better that there is equal justice and justice is colorblind," Zelin said. "We continue to pursue every avenue until justice is done. And if they cannot be held accountable in criminal court, they’ll be held accountable in a civil court."
Attorneys, elected officials and advocates had requested that New York State Attorney General Letitia James’ office review the case, but officials said last year that they could not conduct a criminal probe without a referral from the governor.
Zelin said the attorney general can only conduct a review if the victim in the case dies.
James’ office could not be reached Friday for comment.
In declining to charge the officers, Singas said an outside expert found that the officers’ use of force was "justified by law and policy."
Rogers’ legal team said the coronavirus pandemic has caused delays in both the civil and criminal cases. Rogers said during an interview that he wants Nassau County officials to provide justice through police reforms.
"My life has been up and down during the pandemic," Rogers said. "This political situation in our country, from George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, is like my mindset. Freeport police haven’t been prosecuted and still work to this day. I want justice for the assault and the degradation I’ve had and this bad aura I’ve had to assassinate my character. I just want justice."
Rogers said he knows there are good police officers in the community, but that he is concerned about how many other victims of police brutality have gone unreported.
Rogers is still set to appear in Nassau County court next month on his pending cases. The contempt charge was added in November, when Rogers was accused of violating a restraining order when he borrowed an electric heater from someone in Glen Cove.
Zelin called the contempt charge "a misunderstanding" and a "knee-jerk reaction" after the accuser came to Rogers’ home. He said he is seeking to dismiss the remaining charges.
Nassau County district attorney officials declined to comment on Roger's case or pending charges.