A Corrections Department chaplain who claimed an NYPD officer deliberately broke his leg during an arrest has been awarded $3.95 million damages, but the city wants to challenge the verdict.
It took a Brooklyn jury less than an hour to reach a decision after hearing 51-year-old Christopher Graham's nightmarish ordeal during a brief trial earlier this month. Ultimately, jurors ruled in favor of Graham, who filed a civil claim against the city after officer Paul Aparo severely injured him in 2010.
"He was turning my leg, left and right. I was screaming and banging on the floor. Then I heard a snap," Graham recalled, according to the New York Daily News. "Even after my leg breaks they were still beating my a--."
Police were reportedly called to Graham's Crown Heights apartment by his girlfriend, who reported a domestic dispute, when trouble ensued. She accused the off-duty prison chaplain of assault although he still denies the charge. Upon arrival, cops allegedly made a beeline for Graham and used excessive force.
"They pulled [my] hat off my head and pulled dreadlocks out of my head," Graham said of officer Aparo and his former partner, officer Michael Stumbo. "They slammed me to the floor and held me down. One of them was stepping on my neck and my face. The other one was trying to break my leg."
Graham had to undergo two surgeries after his left tibia and fibula were fractured during the incident. He now suffers from post-traumatic arthritis.
Police learned about Graham's occupation while he was in custody at the 77th Precinct which, according to him, prompted a sudden shift in their ill-treatment of him.
"Then everything changed," he recounted. "They thought I was some thug, but now I'm a state chaplain. I knew from the minute this happened I would sue because I know who I am. I did not do anything."
All charges, including misdemeanor assault, menacing, criminal possession of a weapon, resisting arrest and harassment, were eventually dropped.
During the trial, officers reportedly gave differing accounts of what exactly transpired and subsequently jurors were not convinced, according to Graham's attorney Ray Gazer. At one point they reportedly said the former prison chaplain's broken leg was caused by his resisting arrest but later tried to blame the injury on his girlfriend.
Nicholas Paolucci, a spokesman for Corporation Counsel, said the city is "evaluating all of our options for challenging the verdict."
"We review, in a variety of ways, all allegations of officer misconduct," Deputy Chief Kim Royster said. "A [verdict in] a civil case does not constitute a finding or even evidence that an officer has engaged in any misconduct."