New York Officials Accuse Lawyer of Falsely Claiming Police Abuse

Suffolk County police and officials have accused an attorney of making false claims about the alleged abuse of Cindy M. O’Pharrow who was arrested after a recent shooting. She is now suing. O’Pharrow, who is black, alleged that the police injured her when they forced her out of an ambulance without cause — allegations amplified by her lawyer, Frederick K. Brewington in front of cameras. However, officials claim that a dash camera disproves the allegations and they accused Brewington of lying. The controversy raises the question of when lawyers can be punished for making unsupported claim. In relation to Trump lawyers facing disbarment or sanctions, I have previously written on why such charges should be a concern for all attorneys. Notably, there has been none of the hue and cry for bar action from those supporting such sanctions against Republicans and Trump’s counsel.

O’Pharrow filed a notice of claim against Suffolk County and its police department, alleging that officers injured her arm while forcibly removing her from an ambulance after they responded to a June 27 shooting at a Dix Hills graduation party.

An internal investigation on Long Island reportedly disproved the allegations.

The officers lashed out at Brewington who told the press that there was physical abuse without cause or provocation. Acting Police Commissioner Stuart Cameron said the video shows O’Pharrow getting angry and “waving her finger” at EMS personnel and then climbing into the ambulance.  The EMS crew needed to leave and the cousin of the victim is seen telling her “Just get out so they can leave.”  She was lifted out of ambulance by officers so that a critically injured person could be taken to the hospital.

The controversy raises again the consistency and implication of the move to punish lawyers for claims later found unsupported. As noted earlier,

In reality, many cases collapse in court over insufficient evidence. Election challenges are made without access to critical records or data held by election boards or officials — indeed, litigants often go to court to gain such access.

Likewise, public interest lawyers often bring cases against the government, which classifies or withholds evidence. When I litigated the Area 51 case, I was suing a base that the government claimed did not exist, and all information about it was classified; we prevailed in establishing environmental violations but only after years of intense litigation and denials.

The concern in this case is that we are seeing a weaponization of bar investigations after a wide (and well-funded) campaign to harass Republican lawyers, their firms and their clients after the 2020 election. And it has worked: Many law firms are unwilling to take on Republican or conservative causes for fear of being targeted.

It is doubtful that the same lawyers and groups will be calling for disbarments or sanctions in this case. However, that is the point. There is a lack of consistent and coherent standards in when such claims will be treated as matters for bar action.  I do not know what Brewington knew when he gave these interviews, but I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. While there is a duty of reasonable inquiry, lawyers are allowed to believe their clients and their accounts. I remain concerned about the weaponization of bar actions and how they may impact public interest cases, including police abuse cases.

16 thoughts on “New York Officials Accuse Lawyer of Falsely Claiming Police Abuse”

  1. Thank God for body cam.

    This might come as a shock to some, but truthfulness is not gender or race based. “Believe all women” was always a ludicrous, bigoted statement.

    Cops might want to consider wearing their own private cameras, as well, if their department and state allows it. It pays to have evidence to defend yourself. I hope police departments learn from all these false allegations, and act in a timely manner the moment they start. When departments wait to release any information until an investigation is completed, it gives the internet mob too much time to give out false information, which drowns out the truth.

    The pitchfork mobs want blood; they don’t want the truth.

  2. Rather than detailing the facts of this obscure Suffolk County case, why didn’t Turley reveal the facts in the newsworthy Trump lawyer sanction cases? In a Colorado district court, the judge is considering sanctioning the Trump lawyers for filing a frivolous election fraud claim. The Trump lawyers cited theories put forward by Trump allies including, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, who the lawyers claimed was a “serious person!” The judge questioned whether the lawyers could file a lawsuit based on mere belief of problems. He noted the lawyers had not presented “one iota” of evidence to support their claims. The judge pointed out that the Trump lawyers provided sworn statements from people who *believed* the election was stolen because of Trump’s repeated lies. He stated, “Many people have been influenced by the outgoing officeholder saying the election was stolen. They sincerely believe everything that is stated by the outgoing officeholder. Of course they’re going to think and feel and have genuine emotions about this. . . . How does that a federal lawsuit make, the fact that the people felt aggrieved somehow?”

    Not surprisingly, Turley did not reveal this damning observation that the affidavits in support of the lawsuit were based on *feelings* predicated upon Trump’s Big Lie. Turley likewise has not addressed the merits of the Michigan district court case in which the judge is considering sanctions against Trump lawyers for filing a frivolous lawsuit. In that case, the federal judge called the election fraud claims “really fantastical.”

    Turley warns, “While there is a duty of reasonable inquiry, lawyers are allowed to believe their clients and their accounts.” It would appear the Michigan and Colorado judges are of the opinion that the Trump lawyers did NOT fulfill their duties of inquiry. Quite the contrary, they had good reason to disbelieve their clients’ affidavits.

    No wonder Turley does not argue the facts in these Trump sanction cases! Because the facts are decidedly against him, Turley ignores the facts and argues the law in the abstract. It’s what an *advocate* should do for his client, but not a *law professor* who has a duty to educate….

  3. Some might argue that this lawyer is in violation of the Canon of Ethics. If so, they should file a complaint with the Bar association. Truth will (or should) come out

  4. And Turley hit the nail on the head.
    The issue is that lawyer can and will make outrageous claims prior to learning the facts where they solely take their client’s word.

    This is a typical ambulance chaser tactic. Trying to get a payday from the city.

    The only way to stop it is to fight these types of suits, win and ask for sanctions against these types of lawyers.

  5. “Falsely Claiming Police Abuse”

    – Professor Turley
    ______________

    Funfact:

    It’s the anniversary of Bill Clinton falsely claiming that a “spontaneous fuel tank explosion” brought down Flight 800 out of New York City, when God and everyone know that the U.S. Navy shot that plane out of the sky, presumably inadvertently.

    Bill Clinton squandered vast sums, many multiple millions of dollars, on a “fake investigation” and a real, purjurious cover-up by almost every department of government in order to avoid embarrassment three months before a presidential election.

    1. “… everyone know [sic] that the U.S. Navy shot that plane [Flight 800] out of the sky, presumably inadvertently.” — George

      I do not know that your “Funfact” is accurate. It is equally possible that Flight 800 was hit by a Stinger (MANPAD) missile fired from a small boat just offshore. What Stinger missile, you ask? One leftover from those supplied by the CIA to the Afghani mujahedeen during the Soviet occupation of that country. Immediately after the Soviet withdrawal, it is well known that CIA was scrambling to reacquire any and all Stingers which remained in mujahedeen hands (for all the obvious reasons).

      And considering that the CIA became deeply involved in the accident investigation, including producing a video “explanation” of the crash aired by all the major television network news programs which just happened to contradict numerous eyewitness accounts of the incident, it seems a plausible theory not easily dismissed.

  6. Isnt this something the Bar should clean up? I agree its a tremendous problem, and attorneys are degrading their own currency by not making sure the standards are uniformly applied. And defending the firms that do a public service by representing the distasteful. What next? Sanctions and disbarment for firms representing pedophiles or murderers? But I am not sure the government should do it—or can be trusted to do it, since they are in the justice business themselves.

  7. Bar associations tend to be political.

    Favored or connected lawyers are rarely sanctioned; indeed most complaints about these lawyers are rejected without an investigation.

    On the other hand, disfavored lawyers are often railroaded.

    Americans who have filed bar complaints have learned to their dismay that there is little justice in the justice system.

    1. Favored or connected lawyers are rarely sanctioned… disfavored lawyers are often railroaded.

      Social justice anywhere is injustice everywhere.

  8. Early on I said that cops should be in favor of cameras as they will end up protecting all the good and decent officers out there. When the police unions balked at the cameras in a cheesy attempt to actually bargain for more money for wearing cameras it made the police look bad. Unions do this all the time, see the teachers unions. However, many police have been proven to have done the right thing with video proof and the good cops are winning in this battle against them. This is a win-win situation, good cops are shown doing the right thing, bad cops are stopped form acting like thugs and the citizens reap the benefits.

    Just an added aside: If lawyers can and should be sanctioned for bad acts how about judges? How about Judge Sullivan, the partisan “jurist” that wouldn’t end that Michael Flynn prosecution to the point of outright harassment?

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