NEW ORLEANS--The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit today on behalf of a Central City businessman Steven Elloie, who was brutally beaten up, tasered twice with up to 50,000 volts of electricity while handcuffed and lying on the ground, falsely arrested on trumped up charges and eventually cleared of the accusation. A complaint with the Public Integrity Bureau (PIB) or internal affairs was given short shrift and appeared to be a part of a conspiracy at the highest levels to protect the offending officers.
"We all want the police to effectively fight crime, but they must do so within the rule of law," said Katie Schwartzmann, Staff Attorney, ACLU of Louisiana. "This case illustrates official lawlessness, which led to a malicious prosecution and violation of Mr. Elloie's constitutional rights. It also appears that an official cover up took place to protect the offending officers and keep the truth from ever seeing the light of day."
The incident in question took place on the evening of June 23, 2006, at the Sportsman's Corner onDryades Street in Central City. Manager Steven Elloie was in a back room of his bar when six to ten NOPD officers entered the bar in an aggressive and belligerent manner. About 16 patrons were in the bar at the time. The officers proceeded to forcefully search the premises without a warrant or permission from any employee or Mr. Elloie. They pointed guns at everyone in the bar, used profane, disrespectful language, and refused to allow people to use their cell phones.
Elloie heard the commotion and came out to investigate. As manager, he offered to assist the officers, who said, "We don't give a fuck who you are," or words to that effect. Four or five officers converged on him, threw him against a wall and severely beat him to the floor, where the beating and kicking continued. Still on the floor, officers handcuffed him and proceeded to taser him with two high voltage jolts from an electric stun gun, which rendered him incapable of walking. Then one officer instructed the others to, "Drag his motherfucking ass out of here," or words to that effect, and they proceeded to drag him to the police car.
Despite knowing Elloie's physical condition from the beating and the taser shocks, along with his hypertension, the officers took him directly to Orleans Parish Prison, which refused admittance due to his injured state. He was taken to Charity Hospital for treatment of injuries to the head, body, and extremities, multiple bruises and abrasions, numbness and tingling of the skin, elevated heart rate and blood pressure.
Upon return to Orleans Parish Prison, Elloie was charged with resisting arrest and battery on Officer Baldassaro. He was arraigned on June 24, 2006, and pled not guilty on June 26, 2006. After the Defendant officers, including the allegedly battered Baldassaro, failed to appear before the court for the third time, the charges against Plaintiff were finally dropped, on March 8, 2007.
In mid-July 2006, Elloie filed a complaint with the Defendant New Orleans Police Department's Public Integrity Bureau (PIB). This report was ultimately classified as "not sustained," despite the fact that Elloie had a roomful of witnesses, all of whom corroborated his complaint. The foot dragging and manner in which the PIB dealt with the complaint make the process appear as a sham and discourages people from reporting abuse. Also, it raises serious questions about whether any effective oversight of the police exists in this city.
After the brutal treatment at the hands of NOPD officers, Elloie sustained serious injuries, including a black eye, deep bruises on his wrists from being dragged by the handcuffs, black marks on his body from being dragged, and bruises and abrasions of varying severity, were plainly visible when he was released from jail the next day. His wrists were severely swollen, and he continues to require medical treatment for his injuries and continues to experience numbness and pain in his arm and pain in his back. Elloie incurred significant medical expenses in treating his injuries.
"Police Chief Warren Riley knew or should have known that calling for aggressive or proactive policing would give a green light to some officers to stop and question people without probable cause, and abuse, insult, and falsely arrest people on phony charges," according to Joe Cook, Executive Director, ACLU of Louisiana. "The City of New Orleans through its Mayor and City Council ultimately bear responsibility for the policies, practices and procedures at NOPD that led to the life threatening abuse to Mr. Elloie and violation of his constitutional rights. They have a duty to make changes and keep similar incidents from occurring in the future."