The claims against the Northampton Police Department by ACLU client Jonas Correia for violation of his civil rights, unlawful arrest, assault and battery, and excessive force have been settled for $52,500.
City of Northampton police officers illegally arrested and maced Mr. Correia on March 31, 2013 while he was using his phone to film a police interview of his friends outside Tully O'Reilly's pub on Pleasant Street. A video of Mr. Correia's arrest posted to YouTube with the caption: "Northampton Massachusetts Police Brutality" has been viewed approximately 86,000 times.
The video shows Northampton police officers questioning four individuals sitting on the curb and Mr. Correia filming this interaction with them when a pub employee rapidly approaches him and, standing inches from Mr. Correia's face, begins screaming for him to "walk the fuck away!" One of the officers then maces Mr. Correia while another police officer simultaneously tackles him to the ground. Mr. Correia was charged, without basis, with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.
On May 9, 2013 the Northwestern District Attorney's office dismissed the count of resisting arrest, having determined that "at the time the defendant knew or should have known he was being placed under arrest he offered no resistance to police."
At the same time, the District Attorney converted the charge of disorderly conduct from a criminal offense to a civil infraction. The Northampton Police Department then retained Special Counsel for the sole purpose of pursuing this charge at a civil trial. However, the Special Prosecutor also refused to proceed and, on November 29, 2013, dismissed the City's civil claim of disorderly conduct, as well.
Mr. Correia was represented by American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts attorney William C. Newman and Luke Ryan, an ACLU cooperating attorney and partner in the Northampton firm of Sasson, Turnbull, Ryan & Hoose.
In an unusual step, Mr. Correia's attorneys sent the City a 12-page single-spaced letter disclosing every detail of the case against the police officers and the police department, including a frame-by-frame analysis of the video evidence. They did so, attorney Ryan said, "because the evidence of misconduct, false arrest, and excessive force was overt, obvious, and undeniable. The case thus has been settled without ever having been filed in court."
The following statement may be attributed to Mr. Jonas Correia:
"I feel so very thankful for my family, the community, supporters of 'Justice for Jonas,' and my lawyers - who have stood by me through this ordeal. I am truly blessed.
"I am also very lucky that there was a person with a cell phone who made a recording that proved my innocence and the police misconduct. Without that cell phone recording, I would have been just another black man going to court, where it would have been my word against the police story. 9 out of 10 times, the police story would have been believed, I would have ended up convicted, and innocence would not have mattered.
"After the charges against me were thrown out of court, I decided to pursue a case against the police because I didn't want what happened to me to happen to anyone else. In some ways, the case now is over - there will be no more court. In other ways, it is not because every day I live with the memories of what the police did to me.
"Going forward, I hope to forgive the police. I hope the Northampton police will do everything necessary to make sure that in the future officers do not use excessive force or make unlawful arrests."