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First Circuit Affirms Jury’s Verdict in Excessive Force Claim

First Circuit Decision

Robert S. Sinsheimer and Wesley B. Stoker obtained an important ruling from the First Circuit Court of Appeals concerning an individual’s right to be free from excessive force.

On January 26, 2016, a jury found that Essex County Sherriff’s Officer, George Gikas, violated Alfonso Ciolino’s constitutional right to be free from the use of excessive force when Gikas grabbed Mr. Ciolino by his shirt collar and threw him to the pavement during the 2012 St. Peter’s Festival in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Mr. Ciolino sustained a torn rotator cuff and significant injuries to his elbow, which kept him out of work for over one year.  Mr. Ciolino was awarded $288,767.34 including attorney’s fees and expenses.

The Defendant argued that he was immune from Mr. Ciolino’s excessive force claim, because his conduct fell within an allowable “margin of error.”  However, the U.S. District Court ruled that Gikas was not entitled to qualified immunity because “a reasonable officer in Sergeant Gikas’ position would have understood that throwing Plaintiff to the pavement in those circumstances was unnecessary, and would thus violate his Fourth Amendment right to be free from excessive force.”

On June 28, 2017, the First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court’s decision. Although Gikas testified that the take-down was consistent with his training, the Court ruled that Gikas’ conduct was contrary to the training he received.”  A reasonable officer might well have laid hands on Ciolino…but would have used a less aggressive technique, such as seizing and securing Ciolino’s hands, rather than taking the actions that Gikas did.”  The Court’s decision is significant in that it puts police officers on clear notice that merely disobeying a police officer’s order to “move along,” without more, is not an adequate basis to take down non-threatening and non-resisting citizens.

Sinsheimer & Associates Wins Major Summary Judgment Motion Against Plymouth County District Attorney’s Office For Political Retaliation

On March 30, 2017, the Federal District Court entered an order denying a motion for summary judgment by the Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy Cruz and his former First Assistant, Frank Middleton.

In 2012, John Bradley was removed from his position as Assistant District Attorney in retaliation for declining to contribute to the District Attorney’s re-election campaign.  The Defendants moved for summary judgment.  However, the Hon. Indira Talwani, found that there were sufficient facts for a jury to believe that Mr. Bradley was terminated as a result of his decision to withhold political support from the District Attorney’s re-election campaign.

The case will be tried before a jury in Federal District Court, beginning on January 8, 2018.

Sinsheimer & Associates Prevails against Massachusetts State Police Motion to Dismiss

On March 24, 2017, Suffolk Superior Court Judge, Edward P. Leibensperger, denied Defendants, Massachusetts State Police and Kevin Buckley’s, motions to dismiss.  The court ruled that Plaintiff, Daralyn Heywood’s claims for sexual harassment and retaliation could go forward.

Sgt. Heywood was subjected to lewd and sexually suggestive comments by her supervisor, Lieutenant Kevin Buckley.  After Heywood raised concerns with Buckley about his alleged inappropriate sexual harassment, he undermined her authority with other MSP troopers, transferred her to the midnight shift, and denied her training opportunities.  Heywood also alleges that the subsequent investigation by the Massachusetts State Police was conducted to cover-up Buckley’s malfeasance.

Heywood’s case was covered by the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team. The article can be found on the Boston Globe’s website: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/03/12/behind-blue-wall-women-and-minority-troopers-clash-with-state-police-culture/Q2bs8R8142mSuftfnJL6eK/story.html

Sinsheimer & Associates to Appear Before the First Circuit in Police Brutality Case

Sinsheimer & Associates will appear before the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit regarding the defendant-officer’s right to claim Qualified Immunity.

On January 26, 2016, a jury found that Essex County Sherriff’s Officer, George Gikas, used excessive force when he threw Alfonso Ciolino to the street, while on routine crowd control during the St. Peter’s Festival in Gloucester, Massachusetts.  Mr. Ciolino was severely injured during the encounter, tearing his rotator cuff.  Mr. Ciolino’s injury caused him to lose a year of work.  Mr. Ciolino was awarded $298,767.34, which includes lost wages and attorney’s fees.

After the verdict, Gikas Appealed to the First Circuit claiming he was entitled to Qualified Immunity. Oral arguments are scheduled for June 6, 2017 at 9:30 a.m. at the John Joseph Moakley Courthouse.

Attorney Sinsheimer Quoted in Spotlight Article

Attorney Sinsheimer appeared on the front page of the Boston Globe in an article titled, “Behind the blue wall: Claims of bias in the State Police force.”  The article focused on the history of racial and gender bias in the Massachusetts State Police and its failure to make substantive changes over time.  Attorney Sinsheimer is quoted as saying, “The culture is 1950’s frat boy.  Honest, hard-working, and professional 21st-century women who care about the law and the people they serve are shunted aside and diminished.”  The article can be found on the Boston Globe’s website: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/03/12/behind-blue-wall-women-and-minority-troopers-clash-with-state-police-culture/Q2bs8R8142mSuftfnJL6eK/story.html

Attorney Sinsheimer on the Front Page of the Boston Globe

Attorney Sinsheimer appeared on the front page of the Boston Globe in an article titled, “Inquiry nearing end on unions’ ties to City Hall.”  The article chronicled the investigation into alleged improprieties between union representatives and local government officials.  Our client was erroneously caught up in the investigation.  Attorney Sinsheimer is quoted as saying, “As far as I know, my client has spent his life trying to get jobs for other people.  That’s what a union is supposed to do.”  After several years, the grand jury never returned an indictment.  The article can be found on the Boston Globe’s website: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/11/19/inquiry-nearing-end-unions-ties-city-hall/XY1WscnnBjanulbq0uaiIO/story.html

FIRST CIRCUIT AFFIRMS JURY AWARD AGAINST BOSTON POLICE FOR ILLEGAL ARMED HOME INVASION

18 November 2015

The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed an order that a Boston Police Sergeant pay Scott Matalon a total of $184,642.35 for an illegal armed invasion into his home. The award includes damages and attorney’s fees.

On September 29, 2010, Scott Matalon was home, asleep in his bed, on the third floor of a single family triple-decker in Allston Massachusetts. He was awakened by a cacophony of sound; barking dogs, his parrots squawking, and strangers speaking in loud tones. He tossed on a pair of trousers and raced downstairs.

In his living room, Scott discovered several police officers and two frightening, barking dogs. Long a bird lover, he kept parrots who were squealing with trauma. His initial reaction was disbelief and shock. He expressed himself in strong terms and was ordered outdoors. Within a few moments he was bruised and battered, under arrest.

He had done nothing wrong whatsoever.

The ringleader of this gross police abuse was Sergeant Mary Ann O’Neil. O’Neil claimed to be looking for a robber who had allegedly held up a nearby restaurant. There was absolutely no evidence the alleged robber had anything to with the Matalon home.

Matalon was arrested on trumped up charges for daring to protest.

The jury also found Joseph Hynes liable for using excessive force in arresting Mr. Matalon.

Scott Matalon stated:

“It has been five (5) long years but I am proud I stood up for my rights.”

Mr. Matalon’s attorney, Robert S. Sinsheimer, said in a statement:

“This important First Circuit decision puts an end to the Police attempt to defend the indefensible. Had O’Neil apologized there may have been no lawsuit. Her brazen abuse of her badge was shocking. Thanks to the First Circuit, we will all be a little safer in our homes tonight.”

NEW ADDITIONS TO THE FIRM

1 January 2015

As of January 1, 2015 we have had some new lawyers to our ranks. Attorney Wesley Stoker has joined our ranks working mostly on the civil side of our practice. Attorney Lisa Parlagreco is a well seasoned lawyer who is joining us of counsel. Lisa will be working largely on appeals and substantial civil litigation cases.

PLAINTIFF WIN AGAINST BOSTON POLICE

03 OCTOBER 2014

a federal jury awarded our client Scott Matalon, the sum of $50,000.00 against Boston Police Sergeant Mary Ann O’Neil and Officer Joseph Hynes. Mr. Matalon had been asleep in his home when O’Neil ordered police to rush into his home with a dog and a gun, looking for a suspect who had allegedly robbed a restaurant several blocks away… Read More

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