ACLU lawsuit secures justice against police misconduct
A federal jury has sided with a Boston man after he was falsely arrested in his home by a Boston Police officer, held in jail overnight, and faced criminal charges for months before the charges were finally dismissed. The verdict comes in a case brought by the ACLU of Massachusetts and law firm Todd & Weld LLP.
On the day after Thanksgiving in 2018, police entered Michael Okosi’s home in response to a dispute between two women. While several officers were inside, Mr. Okosi asked them to please close the front door in order to keep the heat in his home. He then reached past the defendant, Officer Scott Roby, to shut the door himself. The police officer suddenly and forcefully grabbed Mr. Okosi, arrested him, and walked him out to the police cruiser, shirtless and shoeless. Officer Roby falsely claimed that Mr. Okosi hit him in the chest, and made the decision to charge Mr. Okosi with assault and battery on a police officer and disorderly conduct. A home security camera captured the incident and demonstrated that Mr. Okosi did no such thing. Nevertheless, based on the defendant’s false accusations, Mr. Okosi spent the night in jail, as well as several months with the charges pending against him. Eventually, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office dismissed the charges against Mr. Okosi for reasons consistent with his innocence.
“I am thankful that there is video of what happened, but think often about what would have happened if I hadn’t chosen to install a security camera in my own home,” said Mr. Okosi. “What happened to me was traumatizing and wrong, and I brought this case in the hopes that no one else would have to experience what I did.”
“Our client was deprived of his liberty and suffered harm—including physical and emotional injuries—based on the lies of one police officer,” said Jessie Rossman, managing attorney at the ACLU of Massachusetts. “We are grateful that a jury has recognized that harm. This verdict is another step forward in addressing police misconduct.”
After a three-day federal trial last week that included the home security video footage and firsthand testimony, the jury unanimously found in Mr. Okosi’s favor on several counts, including federal and state law claims for false arrest and false imprisonment, and a state law claim for malicious prosecution. The jury awarded Mr. Okosi compensatory damages for the harm he suffered, as well as punitive damages to punish Officer Roby for his conduct.
“Not only was this verdict an important result for our client Michael Okosi, but it also provides a vital glimmer of hope with respect to police accountability in Massachusetts,” said Alycia Kennedy, litigation attorney at Todd & Weld LLP. “By awarding punitive damages against Officer Roby, the jury sent a powerful message that a police officer cannot fabricate a charge against an innocent person and expect to get away with it.”
The ACLU and Todd & Weld filed this lawsuit on behalf of Mr. Okosi in November 2021, seeking justice and accountability for the harm he suffered.