Jury finds for man who claims police assault

October 15, 2008 5:26:34 PM PDT
A federal jury has awarded $20,000 to a man who accused two New York City police officers of assaulting him as he sat on a bench on a college campus. After a two-week trial and about three hours of deliberations, jurors found Tuesday that Officer Adam Jangel and Sgt. Michael Hoehl violated Harwinder Vilkhu's civil rights, said his lawyer, Mariann Meier Wang.

The officers testified that they never touched Vilkhu, 36, though an ambulance was called to the scene of the May 2005 encounter, Wang said.

"I'm very pleased they vindicated our client's constitutional rights and saw through the fabrications of the officers," Wang said Wednesday. "What they did was wrong, and he's glad the jury found that."

City attorney Arthur Larkin said in a statement Wednesday that the city "contends that this alleged incident should not have resulted in an award to the plaintiff."

The city is considering its legal options, he added.

The officers weren't disciplined and remain on the job, the New York Police Department said. Hoehl, an officer at the time of the incident, has since been promoted to sergeant.

Vilkhu said the officers grabbed him by the collar while he was talking to a friend on his cell phone as he sat outside the York College Performing Arts Center in Queens.

Vilkhu was meeting friends there for a sold-out concert, his lawyer said. Campus security officers asked city police to help with crowd control, the Daily News reported.

When Vilkhu asked the officers' names and asked why they were mistreating him, Jangel hit him in the groin and stomach with a flashlight while Hoehl held Vilkhu's hand, his lawyer said. The two called the Indian-born Vilkhu, who had become a U.S. citizen four months before, "all sorts of racist names," Wang said.

The officers testified that they simply handed Vilkhu summonses for disorderly conduct and trespassing and watched him walk away, Wang said.

But Vilkhu called 911 twice for an ambulance during the confrontation, his lawyer said. The second 911 tape, in which he complained that he'd been hit in the groin, was played during the trial, she said.

He was treated at a hospital, Wang said.

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