Today, the ‘New York Times’ reported on a particularly shocking example of police brutality committed against two New York City college professors, Suzanne LaFont and her husband Karl Anders Peltomaa. The case demonstrates how easily anyone can fall victim to the unjustified force and abuse of authority of the police who are often inadequately equipped to handle the situation before them.
The facts are shocking. Last April, Mr. Peltomaa – who was recovering from open-heart surgery – and Ms. LaFont were home enjoying a quiet night and drinking some wine. Earlier in the evening, Mr. Peltomaa took pain medication prescribed to him after the surgery. At some point in the evening, he felt nervous that the pills and the wine were reacting negatively and he asked his wife to call the police, who were dispatched to the apartment.
Once they had arrived, Ms. LaFont began to explain the situation to one of the officers when her dog ran out into the street, causing her to chase after it before she had a change to fully the inform the officer of what was happenig. According to the article, the officer then inexplicably proceeded to throw her husband against a wall in an attempt to handcuff him, slamming his surgical wounds against the surface. When Ms. Lafont returned, she told the officer not to do this to her husband and SHE was promptly placed under arrest.
The police would describe Mr. Peltomaa in court documents as an “emotionaly disturbed person” who was “willing to be placed in handcuffs for his protection” but who also”fought back, kicking the officer in the groin and shins.” In any event, the officer had slammed Mr. Peltomaa face first on the floor causing his chin to split open and injuring his hand. He was ultimately hospitalized while his wife spent 19 hours in custody before being arraigned on charges of Obstructing Governmental Administration and Harassment. Nine months later, Ms. Lafont’s case was finally dismissed by a Judge.
As terrible as this case was, the facts could have been even worse, given Mr. Peltomaa’s fragile health condition. Fortunately, the criminal charges filed against Ms. LaFont were dismissed, but only after nine months of court appearances and legal fees. Without question, the family should (and likely is) pursuing Federal claims against the individual officers, the police department and the City of New York for violations of the couple’s constitutional rights, police brutality, malicious prosecution, false arrest, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, all of which may have resulted due to the department’s inadequate training of the officers. The discovery process of the ensuing litigation will reveal whether or not the police officers involved have prior instances of brutality on their records. Sadly, cases like this occur more often than the New York Times reports; as a civil rights lawyer, I’ve realized that all too often the police officers who commit these offensive acts do so repeatedly, and without any sort of punishment. This is why it is important for people who are victims of such abuse of power and brutality to pursue their legal rights by consulting with a civil rights attorney in order to justly compensate them and possibly prevent the officers involved from re-offending.
“Civil Rights Lawyers on the Police Brutality of Suzanne LaFont and Karl Anders Peltomaa” – Criminal charges against an innocent family were dismissed; but the legal battle to hold officers accountable must continue.