LUKAS I. ALPERT and MURRAY WEISS
New York Post
July 30, 2008
The day after a video emerged of a cop knocking a cyclist to the ground, a second video alleging police brutality surfaced today in which an NYPD officer is seen whaling away at a man’s legs with a baton.
The footage – shot on July 4 on the Lower East Side – shows Officer Maurice Harrington repeatedly hitting Michael Cephus, 46, on his legs with a collapsible metal baton as he struggles with officers trying to cuff him.
Harrington – a four-year veteran working out of the 52nd Precinct in The Bronx – had his badge and gun taken away and was placed on modified duty when the tape was turned over to the department’s Internal Affairs Bureau.
The video does not show how the confrontation began. According to the criminal complaint, Harrington and fellow Officer Joel Medina said they encountered Cephus – who they thought was drunk – around 8 p.m. on Delancey Street under the Williamsburg Bridge.
When they stopped him from entering a nearby park, they said he swung an umbrella at them and struck both officers “with closed fists about the body.”
Cephus says he wasn’t drinking that day and denies having gotten physical with the officers.
“I was with some friends at a cookout,” he said. “I stepped out of the park to get some ice. The officers told me I couldn’t return because they said I had alcohol. I told them it was only ice.
“They thought I was drunk and they just came at me. They started swinging and hitting me with the batons.”
Cephus was charged with assault, criminal possession of a weapon, menacing and resisting arrest.
His attorney, Adam Orlow, said that even if his client did what he is accused of, Harrington used “excessive force.”
“Let me be clear – he is maintaining that he absolutely did not do anything they say he did,” Orlow said. “He never took a swing at them. He never was aggressive to them.” Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch called the use of force “necessary.”
Cephus – a truck driver from Brooklyn – said that when he arrived at the police station following a trip to the emergency room, he saw the two men who shot the video. They said they had been busted for disorderly conduct. But earlier, they had managed to slip the tape to one of Cephus’ friends..
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