"Beardsley Stomp" lands cops in federal prison
Michael P. Mayko
BRIDGEPORT -- On the streets it always will be remembered as the "Beardsley Stomp."
But that 57-second video, which led to the arrest, prosecution and resignation of two city police officers caught kicking a downed suspect landed the pair a federal prison term.
Elson Morales and Joseph Lawlor were each sentenced Thursday to three months in prison followed by six months of probation for depriving Orlando Lopez Soto of his constitutional rights.
"Every police officer must know the consequences of crossing the constitutional line ... It's not just loss of employment but loss of liberty," U.S. District Judge Jeffrey A. Meyer said after seeing more than a dozen police officers at both sentencings. "With great power comes great responsibility."
And the judge also suggested the city consider specialized training to help officers control their emotions during a stressful situation like the high-speed May 20, 2011, chase of Lopez Soto, a gun-toting, crack dealing felon.
Morales, 43, and Lawlor, 42, both informed the judge that they never had such training when volunteering for the Violent Crime Initiative Unit.
Both officers apologized for letting emotions and anger control their actions that day.
The officers' actions -- caught on videotape and viewed almost 400,000 times on YouTube -- cracked the already "fragile vulnerable relations people have with police," the judge concluded.
Police and community relations have turned violent in several nationwide cases recently, and the reaction was particularly harsh after investigators cleared an officer in the fatal shooting of a Ferguson, Mo., teenager.
Even in the Beardsley Park case, a federal jury acquitted a third cop, Clive Higgins, who was also captured on the video. That prompted Scot X. Esdaile, statewide president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, to call it "a miscarriage of justice."
During jury selection for Higgins' trial "about a third of the seventy five " citizens called had "seen the video or read about the case," Meyer disclosed Thursday.
The judge said some were so "visibly affected" that he had sidebar discussions with them.
As a result, Meyer said in these technological times no police officer should be surprised if "in a public park, in broad daylight" a recording surfaces of a brutal arrest.
On that day in 2011, Timothy Fennell just happened to be in the park and witnessed Lopez Soto being shot with a stun gun, kicked and stomped by the officers. Lopez Soto's injuries were limited to cuts and bruises.
What further concerned the judge was Fennell's testimony during Higgins' trial.
After recording the incident, Fennell pulled the flash card out of his camera and hid it inside the gas cap of his car for safekeeping, the judge said.
"Part of what he was thinking was, `maybe I'm next, maybe the officers will come after me,' " Meyer said. "That testimony underscores the fragility and great vulnerability of people and their relationship with the police."
In addition to damaging the department's reputation and public trust, Meyer said the incident cost city taxpayers $198,000. That's the price the city paid to settle a civil brutality lawsuit brought by Lopez Soto and his lawyer, Robert Berke.
Still, Lopez Soto, who is serving a five-year state prison term for twice being convicted of possessing crack and loaded guns, advised the court in a letter that he neither wanted the officers fired or incarcerated.
On the day of the stomping, Lopez Soto was targeted by the department's Violent Crime force for drug dealing. A loaded gun, crack and marijuana were found in his car.
"We were watching Orlando Lopez Soto for a long time," Lawlor told the judge.
When he and Morales attempted to stop Lopez Soto, an admitted homeless man living in a van, he led them on a high-speed chase through narrow and heavily trafficked East Side str
Man Stomped On Head By NYPD Officer Thanks Brooklyn D.A. For Indictment
By Hannington Dia
“I’m very grateful to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office for taking the initiative to hold this individual accountable,” Cuffee told the News Tuesday.
Prosecutors arraigned Officer Edouard on third-degree assault, attempted assault, and official misconduct on the same day. Officials released Edouard without bail after he plead not guilty to the charges.
A video shows Edouard stomping on Cuffee’s head after two other officers had subdued him to the ground. The attack happened days after the Eric Garner incident on Staten Island.
Watch Officer Edouard’s alleged stomping of Cuffee here:
Edouard’s lawyer explained his client only performed the so-called “kick,” because Cuffee was resisting arrest and Edouard needed to regain control.
Officers alleged they had seen Cuffee discard a marijuana joint; however, his charges didn’t reflect that. Prosecutors initially charged the Bedford-Stuyvesant resident with evidence tampering, obstruction, and resisting arrest, but dropped all of the charges in December.
Cuffee filed a notice of claim to sue the city, NYPD, and the participating officers for $25 million in September.
“He has recurring nightmares as a result of the gun pointed at him. It significantly impacted his life,” commented Stephen Drummond, Cuffee’s lawyer. “He looks forward for his day in court.”