A Queens man has been awarded about $460,000 in federal civil court on his claim that Suffolk police officers brutalized him and violated his civil rights after he was arrested in 2006 on a misdemeanor charge.
Rafael Weizmann's lawyer said Weizmann, 62, broke down in tears in court in Brooklyn on Thursday when the seven-member jury came back with the decision in his favor. They deliberated several hours after a nearly weeklong trial.
"He felt that finally, he received vindication," said Earl Ward of Manhattan. "This entire incident totally changed his life. His physical injuries have healed, but he is still being treated for the emotional trauma."
Suffolk Attorney Christine Malafi said the jurors likely were confused in returning the verdict and giving him such a high award. She added Weizmann produced documentation for $4,000 in medical expenses.
"We may be making a motion to set aside that portion of the verdict," she said. "Clearly, the police acted appropriately."
Weizmann, a hairdresser from Forest Hills, was driving on Sept. 27, 2006, in Coram, where he had bought a second home a few months earlier, Ward said. He pulled over to check e-mail near Paul's Path, where Suffolk police had a sting operation under way aimed at capturing men seeking prostitutes, Ward said.
Ward said although Weizmann was not there for sex, he was arrested and charged with soliciting prostitution. He was handcuffed and taken by police car to a nearby processing area.
There, still handcuffed, "they dragged him out of the car, picked him up and slammed him to the ground," Ward said. "Mr. Weizmann was called a '-- Jew' right before they threw him to the ground."
He suffered several broken ribs, a broken clavicle and a contusion to the lung, Ward said.
Weizmann agreed to plead guilty to a charge of disorderly conduct and paid a $200 fine, Ward said.
The federal court jury awarded Weizmann $188,000 in medical expenses, $250,000 for pain and suffering and $25,000 in punitive damages, Ward said.
Weizmann spent a number of days in the hospital after the incident, Ward said, and a short time later, he gave up his home in Coram. "He was fearful of the police there," Ward said. "He didn't feel safe in Suffolk County anymore."