Almost four months after a Yonkers police officer allegedly clubbed him in the face with a nightstick, Clayton Hairston is still in pain from nine broken bones and has trouble moving his jaw, his attorney said Tuesday.
On Monday, Hairston filed a civil rights lawsuit in New York Southern District Court, naming the City of Yonkers and two police officers as defendants in the May 22 confrontation that Hairston says landed him in the hospital and caused permanent damage. The lawsuit seeks $40.5 million in damages.
The confrontation was tied to a minor car accident earlier that day in May, said Hairston's Scarsdale-based attorney, Constantine "Gus" Dimopolous. Hairston stopped like he was supposed to, exchanged information with the other driver and headed home, his attorney said.
Later that night, two police officers showed up at Hairston's Yonkers home and told Hairston he'd left the scene of an accident.
"He thought he hit only one car, but he actually nicked the second," Dimopolous said.
Hairston "didn't do or say anything inappropriate," his lawyer said, but he became exasperated when Officer Juan Ojeda kept asking his wife questions.
Hairston admits asking Ojeda, "What, do you like her?" Dimopolous said. That's what allegedly set Ojeda off, the lawsuit alleges.
Ojeda "essentially with full force hit him in the face and broke nine bones in his face," Dimopolous said.
Hairston continues to see doctors for treatment from the injury and has permanent jaw damage, according to Dimopolous. The lawsuit names Ojeda's partner, Officer Michelle Piciulli, and claims Piciulli didn't intervene when Ojeda allegedly struck Hairston.
Yonkers police sent two other officers to take statements from Hairston's wife, then later in the day sent two plainclothes officers back to the couple's home. The officers repeatedly asked Hairston's wife if she was sure her previous statements were accurate and suggested she was mistaken, the lawsuit alleges.
"They tried to get her to change her statement," Dimopolous said.
Phone calls to City Hall and the Yonkers Police Benevolent Association, as well as an email message sent to a spokeswoman for Mayor Mike Spano on Tuesday, were not immediately returned.
The case will be heard in White Plains federal court before Judge Vincent L. Briccetti.