Pressure mounts to discipline cops who beat up and maced homeless man

Posted at 8:23 PM, Jul 18, 2020

Defense attorneys are not only calling for two NYPD officers to be fired after their own body camera video shows them beating a man, shoving him to the ground and macing him, lawyers are also calling for one of the officers to be charged with felony assault.

The video, recorded on May 25, was only released on Wednesday.

Edda Ness is a Legal Aid Society attorney assigned to represent the man.

"It's unjustifiable what they did," Ness told PIX11 News in an interview. "They should have been fired immediately. This case should've never been prosecuted.

The man is 30-year-old Joseph Troiano. Police confronted him for taking up more than one seat in the mostly empty subway car, a crime that hasn't been prosecuted by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance's office since 2016.

Troiano was charged by police with resisting arrest and other misdemeanor charges, but the district attorney's office added a felony assault charge after Vance's office determined that Troiano had injured one officer's hand in the encounter. That charge has been dropped since the video of the incident surfaced.

"After a thorough investigation, our prosecutor intended to offer the individual an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal at his next court appearance," a spokesperson from Vance's office said in an e-mailed statement. "The District Attorney was provided with the available footage last night and determined that our office will advance the case for this purpose, dismiss the assault charge, and offer an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal for the remaining misdemeanor charge."

"Our office is continuing to review all aspects of this encounter, including any potential police misconduct. Our office has charged dozens of uniformed officers for official misconduct and violence since 2010 and will continue to do so in any case where such charges are supported by the facts and the law."

The Legal Aid Society has called out the officers by name.

"[We're] calling for the two officers, Shimul Saha and Adonis Long, to be immediately fired," Ness said.

Long and Saha confronted Troiano around 12:30 a.m. on May 25. After Joseph was told to leave the train, he moved to another subway car. Police followed him.

"Step off the train," one of the officers can be heard saying on video. "You're holding up the train for everybody. Step off or I gotta drag you off."

Troiano asked them how he was holding up the train, and he refused to get off. When Officer Long reached out for Troiano's arm, the subway rider pushed Long's hand away.

"Don't touch me," Troiano can be heard saying. "Don't touch me. Get off of me."

Video shows Officer Long repeatedly punch Troiano in the face. The first punch causes Troiano's eyeglasses to fly off his face. Long and Saha pulled Joseph from the subway car, and he was thrown to the ground in the station.

One officer pulled Troiano over to a wall while the other kicked his belongings off the train. Police told him to sit down and then pepper sprayed him in the face when he didn't immediately comply.

Joseph turned to the wall and covered his eyes; he cried and took a few steps away from police, then fell to the ground where he continued to cry. Officers made him stand, but then told him again to get on the floor.

"Help me," Troiano cried as he got down on the ground.

Video shows that Troiano, face bloodied, struggled with police while on the floor. Officers pulled at his hair and held a hand on his neck. One of Troiano's shoes came off. He asked to be allowed to stand up.

"I'm having a panic attack, please," he said. "I'm sorry. Please, guys, you're killing me."

Troiano was taken to a local hospital on a stretcher.

He was charged by police with resisting arrest, obstruction of governmental administration and taking up more than one seat on the subway.

Walter Signorelli, a retired NYPD inspector who's now an attorney who represents clients suing police, pointed out that Troiano first disobeyed an order from the officers, after which Officer Long struck.

"It's always difficult to second guess an officer," Signorelli said. "The officer might have [first] said, 'You're under arrest,' which would have made everything clearer and more legal," he added.

Legal Aid is calling for prosecutors to charge Officer Long with felony assault. Meanwhile, Ness said her client has had emotional challenges since the late May incident.

"It's a lot of trauma," said Ness.