A Norwalk man is suing three Port Chester, N.Y., police officers, claiming that one of the officers brutally beat him during a dispute about a parking violation while the other two watched and did nothing to stop the assault.
James Graves, 27, claims he suffered severe head injuries and permanent brain damage as a result of the beating, and he is seeking an undisclosed amount of compensatory and punitive damages from the defendants, Port Chester Officers Anthony Rivera and Aaron Conetta and Sgt. John Teneyck.
The incident occurred on Dec. 4, 2008, and he filed the lawsuit U.S. District Court in White Plains on Feb. 25.
Graves' attorney Philip Russell said it would be inappropriate for him to comment on the matter because he is preparing for trial.
Port Chester Police Chief Joseph M. Krezeminski said he could not comment on the matter, as per the request of the department's attorney Tony Cerreto. Cerreto did not return calls for comment.
The lawsuit alleges that Graves was arguing with Frederick Alderman because Alderman had just placed a wheel wedge on Graves' friend's vehicle. Alderman told Graves and his friend that they would have to pay a $75 fine to have the boot removed, the lawsuit said.
Admittedly intoxicated, Graves was demanding to see a rate card or another indicator of Alderman's authority to enforce parking laws, according to the lawsuit. Graves believed the charges were excessive and questioned why Alderman would not accept a credit card, according to the lawsuit.
Rivera, who the lawsuit claims is Alderman's close friend, observed the argument and told Graves to leave the scene, but Graves continued to argue with Alderman. Rivera reached out his hands and choked Graves, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges that Conetta parked his vehicle near the spot where Rivera was assaulting Graves and he did not intervene.
Rivera subsequently walked away, and Graves yelled an obscenity at him, the lawsuit said. Rivera subsequently grabbed a billy club out of his patrol car and smacked Graves in the head "with enough physical force and violence to crack the plaintiff's skull," according to the lawsuit.
Graves was charged with breach of peace and resisting arrest. He was unconscious when he was taken to the Port Chester Police Department and placed in a holding cell, the lawsuit said. The officers did not take a mug shot of Graves, and the lawsuit claims that they refrained from taking the photo because of Graves' visible injuries.
The lawsuit further alleges that Teneyck was in charge of supervising Conetta and Rivera, and he failed to do so.
Graves spent four-and-a-half hours in a holding cell, bleeding from the head and going in and out of consciousness, he said.
He was not taken to the hospital until the officers on the day shift arrived and saw his condition, the suit said.
He stayed in the hospital for several days and underwent brain surgery for his injuries, according to court documents.
The incident was investigated by supervisors in the Port Chester Police Department, and the lawsuit claims Conetta, Rivera and Teneyck corroborated together and made false statements. The lawsuit further states that surveillance footage of the incident was erased.
Graves' criminal trial is set to begin April 1 at Port Chester Justice Court.
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