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City to Pay $135K to Homeless Man Dragged Off Subway by Cops

Police claimed that Joseph T. assaulted them in the May 2020 incident, but body camera footage published by THE CITY showed otherwise.

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Joseph T., seated left, was injured after being hit and pepper sprayed by NYPD officers as they tried to remove him from a 6 train at 51st Street, May 25, 2020.

Screengrab from video/THE LEGAL AID SOCIETY

A homeless man punched and dragged off a subway by cops for allegedly taking up more than one seat on a near-empty train has settled his federal lawsuit against New York City for $135,000 — and one of the officers involved is facing discipline, THE CITY has learned. 

The May 25, 2020 incident had initially led to Joseph T. being arrested and charged with felony assault after police officers alleged he’d kicked one of their hands while they tried to cuff him on the platform of a Midtown train station. 

But in body camera footage first published by THE CITY weeks after the incident, cops could be seen punching Joseph in the face twice and kicking his belongings off the 6 train at 51st Street at around 12:30 a.m. 

NYPD Officer Adonis Long was also seen hitting Joseph with pepper spray and putting one hand around his neck. 

Joseph, a hair stylist by trade, said the incident occurred after he left a Manhattan homeless shelter with his belongings in a few tote bags. He did not want his full name published out of fear of retaliation.

In the body camera footage, Joseph was seen crying and pleading “Stop!” as he was being held against the wall, surrounded by police and appearing to bleed from the side of his head.

“I’m having a panic attack, please,” he says, cuffed on the floor of the station. He calls out for his older brother, who was not there.

He later told THE CITY, “I felt like my heart was going to fall out.” 

Legal Consequences

Former Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance dropped the cop-assault charges against Joseph just days after THE CITY reported the case and published the body camera footage.

Last March, Joseph sued New York City, NYPD officer Long and his partner, Officer Shimul Saha. The filing in Manhattan federal court argued that the officers falsely claimed Joseph tried to run away from the cops, and shoved Long and kicked his right hand.

Long actually cut his right hand by repeatedly punching Joseph, while the cops used excessive force, made a false arrest, and fabricated evidence, according to the complaint. 

The Adams administration settled the case on Dec. 21 without admitting any wrongdoing. 

“This agreement was in the best interest of the parties,” said city Law Department spokesperson Nicholas Paolucci — who noted the city declined to represent Long. 

Doug LaBarbera, Long’s police union attorney, did not respond to a call and email seeking comment. 

Joseph’s attorney, Michael Lumer, noted that Long was not required to personally pay any of the settlement. City lawyers have started to make some cops involved in lawsuits pay out of their own pockets

“This settlement speaks volumes for why some cops continue to lie and brutalize,” said Lumer. “By paying for Adonis Long’s misconduct without demanding any contribution, the city is effectively endorsing his behavior.”

He added, “Until there’s real accountability and discipline, bad cops will continue to violate the law without consequence.” 

Joseph declined to comment on the settlement. 

Citizens Pay for Cops’ Behavior

The latest payout highlights how taxpayers are on the hook to defend and shell out for cops’ bad behavior, even when the Law Department refuses to represent the officer due to the weakness of the case. 

All told, New York City has doled out more than $1.1 billion for NYPD misconduct cases since 2015, more than any other city agency, according to the city comptroller, which tracks payouts. 

In the majority of NYPD cases, police officers themselves are not on the hook to cover any civil payout, according to research by UCLA law professor Joanna Schwartz. Only 35 police officers had to personally pay during the study’s six-year period from 2006 to 2011. Of those cops, half paid less than $2,125, the study found. 

Aside from the civil lawsuit, the Civilian Complaint Review Board in April 2022 substantiated multiple misconduct charges against Long. 

They include: lying to the CCRB, unnecessary physical force, discourteous behavior, wrongful use of pepper spray, and an illegal chokehold. 

The case was based solely on the body camera video obtained by The Legal Aid Society, according to Lumer. He said that Joseph declined to talk with CCRB investigators. 

The charges have been forwarded to NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell, who has final say on disciplinary matters. The NYPD’s press office did not respond to repeated requests seeking comment. 

Any possible internal charges would be brought before the department’s Trial Room where administrative hearings are held. Long could face anything from the loss of vacation days to being fired.


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