By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
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"The risk was always that the story he told us was not true and that the story police had outlined was true," Thomas explains. "We went out on a limb and got people like Reverend Sharpton, Mayor Dinkins, and Sonny Carson to throw their unequivocal support behind Abner and his story. These people took tremendous risks in a political season.
"When we first saw Abner he was handcuffed to his bed. We got Mike McAlary of the Daily News. He didn't believe Abner initially; we had to convince him to come down and write a story. We had to get the word out, and in doing so we could have been accused of perpetrating a hoax. That was always in the back of our minds. Next, we forced police to drop criminal charges against our client. We protected this man."
Defending Abner Louima put the lawyers personally at risk. Thomas and Figeroux, who live in the 70th Precinct, say they received death threats, and late-night phone calls warning them to back off their allegations of police brutality. Patrol cars from the embattled station house frequently drove by their homes. Then Figeroux's teenage daughter was attacked twice on her way to school. In one assault, she was beaten up by four teenagers, and in the other her jacket and bookbag were stolen. Thomas says police at the station house had refused to file Figeroux's complaint about the attacks. Detectives later arrested three 14-year-old girls and one 16-year-old for the incidents.
"We took personal as well as professional risks," Thomas maintains. "We stood up to the PBA. We petitioned the U.S. attorney's office to conduct a 'pattern and practice' investigation of the NYPD. All that was left was for the city to give Abner Louima the money for his suffering. By the time Johnnie Cochran and his 'dream team' came on the scene, the risks were taken. The people who took the risks and made the case should ultimately benefit from the case."