Lawsuit: Bronx Man Wrongfully Arrested at 16 Has Charges Dropped After Spending 3-Years at Rikers Without Trial

Okay, so this Thursday night on Madness & Reality Radio, I’ll be talking about police brutality. If you’ve followed this site for any length time (seriously, we’ve been around for five years now) you’ll know that this is a serious issue, especially within communities of color. You can look to your top right of this site and enter “police brutality” into the search box, and you’ll find any number of stories highlighting this problem. To be clear, here at TIOMAR we do not hate the police. We’re not anarchists; and in truth, we support them and we’re all about law and order.

However, it’s my belief that there is a definite need for better relationships between the police department and communities of color. And, it is to that point the very reason we highlight stories like the following. If a 16-year-old kid can be arrested and incarcerated for three years without as much as a trial, for a crime he never committed, how then can we trust the very people tasked with the job of protecting our lives daily? Case in point, check out the following story of Kalief Browder.

This from WABC-TV 7 New York:

NEW YORK (WABC) — 20-year-old Kalief Browder may be physically free, but mentally he is still trapped behind bars on Rikers, where every day was a battle to survive.

“It’s very hard when you are dealing with dudes that are big and have weapons and shanks and there are gangs,” says Browder, “you know if you don’t give your phone call up, or you don’t give them what they want you know they are going to jump you. And it’s very scary.”

In May of 2010, Browder was a 16-year-old tenth grader, walking home on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx after a party. “This guy comes out of nowhere and says I robbed him. And the next thing I know they are putting cuffs on me. I don’t know this dude. And I do over three years for something I didn’t do.”

Browder’s family couldn’t make the $10,000 bail on the robbery charges, and he had a legal aid attorney. Browder is now represented by a civil rights law firm.

“Someone who did not know Kalief Browder, and simply told the police officer, ‘Officer I was robbed two weeks ago and that kid did it’, that’s where it ended. That was the identification,” said Browder’s attorney, Paul Prestia. Browder said that at the time, the stress was overwhelming, and at some point he tried to commit suicide.

“I mean like every time I go to court, I think I’m, going home, and I go to court, and absolutely nothing happens,” adds Browder, “I was feeling so much pain, and it was all balling in my head, and I just had to grab my head and I can’t take it.”

He missed his sister’s wedding, the birth of his nephew, and so many family events. In January, Browder says he was offered a plea deal after 33 Months in jail, which he refused.

“The judge was trying to give me time served, and she is telling me if I am not taking it and I lose at trial I can get 15 years,” notes Browder.

Browder went back to jail, and in June, he was freed with no explanation.

“They just dismissed the case and they think it’s all right. No apology, no nothing,” he says, “they just say ‘case dismissed, don’t worry about nothing’. What do you mean, don’t worry about nothing? You just took 3 years of my life.”

Browder is now trying to make up for those three years of high school that he lost by taking courses to get his GED. “I didn’t get to go to prom or graduation. Nothing,” Browder says, “those are the main years. They are the main years. And I am never going to get those years back. Never. Never.”

wabc7-wrongfully-arrested-lawsuitYou can watch the video below. Hopefully after watching the interview with Kalief Browder, you’ll give some thought to the fact that this is no accident; and, that wrongful arrests and convictions happen everyday all across this country. Most importantly, however, you’ll understand that disproportionately affected by such abuses are in fact people of color. What happened to Browder is just another example of how many people of color become forever disadvantaged once tagged with a criminal record. This Thursday night on Madness & Reality Radio at 9 p.m. EST, I’ll be interviewing a similar case involving a 17-year-old young man who lives in Detroit, Michigan who is dealing with a very similar situation. Oh, who also has a fractured spine after being beaten by a cop.

Last week, newly elected New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio decided to settle the lawsuit filed by the Central Park Five. The $250-million lawsuit was filed back in 2003 by the five wrongly convicted black and Latino men. If you’re not familiar with the case, do yourself a favor and read here to learn about them. To make a long story short, they are 5 men wrongfully convicted as teens for the rape and assault of a female jogger in Central Park, on April 19th, 1989. As with the case involving Browder above, there was no physical evidence linking them to the crime. After being exonerated in 2002 there was a lawsuit filed; and to date (even all these years later) there has been no redress. Let’s hope that Browder doesn’t have to suffer a similar fate. Why? Aside from the obvious, holding police officers accountable is what is needed. We have to send the message: racism isn’t cheap.