Charges dropped against Pace U. teammates

March 24, 2011 2:14:15 PM PDT
As soon as the charges against them were dropped Thursday, a group of college football players switched from defense to offense, saying they plan to sue the police who arrested them after a teammate was killed by an officer.

The four Pace University students were arrested Oct. 17 in the chaos that followed the shooting of 20-year-old Danroy "DJ" Henry, of Easton, Mass., outside Finnigan's Bar in Thornwood, N.Y.

Last month a grand jury declined to indict the officer who shot Henry. Two weeks ago, prosecutors moved to dismiss various charges of disorderly conduct, obstruction and criminal mischief against teammates Joseph Garcia, Yves Delpeche, Daniel Parker and Joseph Romanik.

"He's here today," DJ's mother, Angella Henry, told the players. "He's here with you guys, and I'm proud of you for keeping ahold of him in your hearts."

Judge Robert Panzini talked to the boys after dismissing the charges.

"One chapter of your life is closed," Panzini told them. "You now have another chapter of your life moving forward."

However, the chapter is not closed. Their lawyer, Bonita Zelman, said they would seek at least $1 million for "brutality, false arrest, malicious prosecution and violations of their civil, constitutional and human rights."

None of the boys has a previous criminal record. They say they are relieved to be cleared.

"It's a big weight off of our shoulders," Romanik said. "I don't want to take away from the loss that we felt from DJ. I think about him all the time. But thank God these charges are dropped, because now we can get on with our lives."

"I think that, in the interest justice, we received justice, all of us," Parker said. "I'm happy."

Henry's family never felt the boys should have been charged in the first place.

"For everyone that has said a prayer, this is an answer to your prayer," Angella Henry said. "We are just taking step 1 to move forward to accountability for the killing of our son and for the treatment of these young men. So this is just one step forward to getting justice for our son DJ."

Michael Hagan, president of the union for county police, called the students' claims "ridiculous" and said the lawsuit was a "shameless attempt to have the taxpayers of Westchester County reward them for their illegal activity."