Jury Awards Damages in Albany Police Brutality Suit

February 29, 2008

A federal jury has awarded $65,000 in compensatory damages to a man who said an Albany police officer ground his face into the pavement and strip searched him in public.

Phillip Lewis, 43, later convicted of weapon possession, said he was compliant and handcuffed after his Nov. 23, 2002 arrest, but Officer William Bonnani stood on his head, laughing, made racial comments, and later pulled down his pants and boxer shorts in front of bystanders and other officers. He said the other police didn’t stop Bonnani, one even saying it was “his turn,” all in violation of Lewis’ constitutional rights against unreasonable searches and to equal protection.

Lewis filed the original handwritten complaint while in state prison.

The Albany Police Department and Bonnani denied fault or negligence, saying Lewis’ conduct contributed to any injuries or damages.

The jury in U.S. District Court in Utica also found after two hours of deliberation that punitive damages should be awarded. A proceeding on the amount is scheduled March 6.

Bonnani’s attorney, David Brickman, told the Times Union of Albany they will appeal, saying Judge David Hurd made numerous errors in his rulings.

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