March 30, 2014

Reports On Man Suing Yonkers Are Withheld (Lower Hudson Journal)

By Jonathan Damashek

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By Ernie Garcia

YONKERS – The city has refused to release an arrest report and a search warrant for a man who claims he was shot by police during a drug raid.

Yonkers’ Department of Law on Wednesday denied a freedom of information law request from The Journal News for records pertaining to the arrest of Carlos Sullivan, 49, a building superintendent whose Walnut Street apartment was the scene of a police raid on June 14, 2007. Two police officers fired 15 shotgun rounds and killed three pit bulls in the small apartment where Sullivan and his children were sleeping.

Sullivan alleges that buckshot from the weapons pierced his body in three locations. In January, he filed a notice of claim against the city, the first step toward a lawsuit.

Sullivan’s court filings accused the police of civil rights violations; his paperwork also alleged that the drug charges brought against him by the police were resolved in his favor. Details about the adjudication of Sullivan’s criminal case are unavailable because the case has been sealed. A spokesman for Westchester County District Attorney’s Office has said he cannot comment on the matter.

Yonkers withheld Sullivan’s arrest report and search warrant based on three conditions in the state Public Officers Law that let an agency veil public records.

The three reasons cited by Yonkers were that the release of the records would interfere with law enforcement investigations or judicial proceedings; deprive Sullivan of a right to a fair trial or impartial adjudication; and identify a confidential source or disclose confidential information relating to a criminal investigation.

Robert Freeman of the New York Committee on Open Government said first two arguments for refusing to release the documents don’t apply to Sullivan’s criminal case because it has concluded.

“It seems to me they can’t possibly say that disclosure would interfere with an investigation,” said Freeman, adding that Yonkers may have cited the wrong reasons for not disclosing the Sullivan records. “In a situation in which a person is charged and the charge is dismissed in his favor, virtually all the records regarding the event become sealed by statute.”

Earlier this year, Sullivan did not have a copy of his arrest report or the search warrant. His attorney, Jonathan Damashek, also has not received them despite requesting them. He also asked that Sullivan’s criminal case be unsealed.

Damashek yesterday said he plans to file a civil rights suit on Sullivan’s behalf in two or three weeks.

“At some point, these documents have to be produced,” said Damashek, who has copies of doctors’ reports indicating there are metal fragments in Sullivan’s body. “It will be interesting to see what’s in the application for a search warrant and in the search warrant itself. (The Yonkers police’s) Internal Affairs did an investigation and they will have documents related to the gunfire.”