We knew these were coming — Thabo Sefolosha himself said as much. Now the lawsuits are arriving.
Last April, Hawks’ swingman Sefolosha had a late-night run-in with the New York Police Department outside a Chelsea Club on the night Chris Copeland was stabbed outside said club. Sefolosha was arrested for misdemeanor obstructing government administration, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest — but in the process of the arrest suffered a broken leg that kept him out of the playoffs last season. At that same time and place, former Hawks center Pero Antic had a confrontation with police and arrested, but he was not charged.
Rather than accept a “let’s just make this go away” plea deal Sefolosha fought the charges in court and won.
Now Antic has filed a civil lawsuit against the NYPD and Sefolosha is expected to have his filed in the coming days, reports Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.
False arrest, unlawful imprisonment, assault, battery, negligence, civil rights violations and malicious prosecution were listed as the claims in Antic’s complaint. Under Antic’s notice of claim, filed last year, $25 million was set as the maximum Antic can recover.
“The NYPD has all but conceded that they falsely and improperly arrested Pero Antic,” Alex Spiro, Antic’s attorney, said. “They will now be held responsible.”
Sefolosha’s suit, which will name the NYPD and other city agencies, will likely include charges of unlawful force, unlawful arrest and malicious prosecution, the source said. Sefolosha’s notice of claim, also filed last year, set $50 million as the ceiling he can be compensated for damages.
Both men had previously filed those claims against the city as the necessary first step in a civil lawsuit. That gives the city a chance to respond and potentially pay up, although at those prices that was never going to happen.
These cases are not slam dunks for the players. First, the New York review board that looked into the case said the officers abused their authority and should not have arrested the players for allegedly interfering with the crime scene, but that same board said the officers did not use excessive force. What’s more, for Sefolosha to get the damages he is asking he has to show permanent damage, and he is back playing in the NBA this season. Antic played this season in Turkey.
One thing the players have in their favor is the video of the incident, which is not the entire picture but doesn’t look good for the police.
This likely will go to trial — in fighting his arrest Sefolosha said he wanted to make a point about the NYPD’s abuse of power. He could have taken a slap on the wrist plea deal with his criminal charges and had the whole thing go away, but he chose to fight. And he won.
Now, he and Antic are not likely to settle — they don’t need the money. They can afford to fight on principle.