By STEVE JONES Staff writer
The city has settled a lawsuit alleging false arrest, excessive force and assault and battery by Rome police officers. It is the second time the city has settled a police-related suit with the same man.
The city will pay a total of $12,000 to settle the suit filed by Maxwell Ellis. None of the money will go to Ellis, however. A $2,000 portion will go directly to Dr. Aymme S. Belen, a dentist, and the other $10,000 will go to attorney’s fees for Stephen Lockwood.
The incident covered in the suit took place at 310 Expense St. on Jan. 13, 2010. The suit filed in State Supreme Court named the city and the police department. In it, Ellis, 3237 Philip Ave. in the Bronx, alleged that on that day he was in a verbal dispute with his uncle, it became heated and Ellis took a walk to "cool off." A cousin followed him out of the house, and neighbors then called the police. "Police officers mistakenly arrest (Ellis’) cousin," believing it was Ellis, he claimed.
When Ellis’ uncle attempted to explain the mistaken identity to police, he was arrested, the suit stated. Ellis saw the events and returned to the scene, was asked by police to "get back," and though he claimed he complied, they grabbed him, threw him to the pavement, "breaking and chipping" one of his teeth and causing facial and elbow lacerations.
He was charged with obstruction of governmental administration and disorderly conduct. He said the officers knew who he was because they called him by name. The suit also claimed that Rome police threatened his uncle and bystanders with Tasers and wrongfully arrested his uncle.
Details of the charges were not available because Ellis was granted youthful offender status in City Court.
The suit notes that it is the second time Ellis has been assaulted and battered by Rome police, and that it has been "motivated by racial bias of the Rome police officers."
The Board of Estimate and Contract voted 3-0 to approve the settlement Thursday. Common Council President John J. Mazzaferro, Public Works Commissioner Frank D. Tallarino Jr. and Treasurer David C. Nolan were present. Mayor Joseph R. Fusco Jr. and Corporation Counsel Timothy A. Benedict were excused from the meeting.
Benedict did, however, recommend the settlement, and explained some of the details to the Common Council Wednesday. The settlement includes the clause that there is "no admission of liability by the City of Rome or any of its employees or officials."
In a previous settlement, Ellis received $35,000. The incident related to that settlement took place on July 29, 2007, at about 11:30 p.m., when Ellis, who was living in Atlanta, Ga., at the time, was near West Park and West Liberty streets, walking with friends.
He was "followed by a police vehicle which pulled over and City of Rome police officers got out of the vehicle" and "violently and forcibly, without any just cause or provocation," grabbed Ellis and threw him down on the ground. He was later released without charges being filed against him, according to the claim.