Yesterday we reported that Chelsea Elliott, who along with Kaylee Dedrick was pepper-sprayed while protesting with Occupy Wall Street at Union Square on Saturday, September 24, had obtained legal counsel and would be pressing charges against Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna, the NYPD officer identified as the man who sprayed the women. “I am doing this in an effort to change police policy and so that Deputy Inspector Bologna will no longer have to opportunity to assault civilians,” she said. Her lawyer, Aymen Aboushi, spoke to us at length today to explain the course they would be taking. While Kaylee Dedrick and her lawyer Ron Kuby have sought the involvement of Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance to charge and arrest Bologna, Aboushi is pursuing a civil case against the NYPD.
He told us, “What we’re doing is pursing a civil rights claim against the NYPD. We’re going to be asking that the NYPD develop ways to better deal with protests, to develop better policies and procedures, so people can exercise their civil liberties and exercise democracy.”
The policy change Aboushi is asking for remain undefined, as he explained: “It’s not ‘You have to change everything.’ I admire the NYPD, and we’re not trying to squeeze them — we’re just asking them to revise their policy and give them some thought as to what they’d do differently.”
Aboushi will be filing notice of a claim, likely next week. He says he doesn’t categorically rule out involving the D.A., as Kuby and Dedrick have done, but that he thinks a civil case is the best way to achieve what he and Elliott are looking for. “None of these ladies were arrested,” he says. “That’s what makes this so ripe for challenge: They weren’t detained, they weren’t even given tickets. Apparently [Bologna] has a history of this kind of behavior.”
He continued, “[Bologna] walked up to the crowd, he maced them, and he walked away. That’s a pretty blatant violation of procedure and civil rights. [The women] weren’t committing a crime, they weren’t rocking the net, they weren’t challenging the net. In the video, it’s clear they weren’t even touching the net. This is one of those really good test cases you can use to challenge the system. The NYPD will revamp their policies, or we’ll go to a jury and they’ll tell them to revamp their policies. This can become the Wall Street protest regulation. If this guy gets fired and the girls get a few dollars, we get nothing, but if we can create mass protest regulations, we achieve far more than that.”
Aboushi will also ask for financial retribution for Elliott, however. “You have to put a number on it; it also telegraphs to the city that we’re serious about this case. But at the end of the day, we want the NYPD to come out with new regulations that support people being able to speak out. That’s the primary reason we’re in this.”
Ron Kuby, Kaylee Dedrick’s lawyer, who sent a letter to the D.A. Vance on the 11th of October asking for the arrest of Bologna, told us, “This is a garden variety misdemeanor assault. This is a big, angry guy having a bad day who attacked 4 or 5 women with a noxious substance. It can be prosecuted without a giant CSI-style forensic Silence of the Lambs investigation. Every day these are cranked out at 100 Centre Street. I’m afraid what’s happening [on the part of the D.A. and NYPD] is investigative noise rather than a simple, straightforward prosecution.”
What does Dedrick hope for? “Ms. Dedrick doesn’t think [Bologna] deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison, but he also doesn’t deserve to be a deputy police inspector,” said Kuby. “Somewhere in between there’s a happy medium. The best deal I could expect would be a plea to misdemeanor, three years probation, and anger management. This was a crime he committed, made worse by his position, which allowed him to commit the crime with impunity.”
The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the NYPD have both stated that they are investigating the matter of the pepper spraying.