Sleepy Hollow pays $200G to end teen’s Taser lawsuit
The village of Sleepy Hollow has paid $200,000 to a teenager who sued after village cops used a Taser on him in an incident that stemmed from a bicycle ride on a village sidewalk.
The village offered the money to Duanny Lara Mota as well as a judgment in his favor to end a federal civil rights lawsuit he filed in April 2009.
Mota, 19, and his mother accepted the offer reluctantly because they risked getting socked with attorneys’ fees and court costs if they won a lesser amount at trial, the family’s lawyer, Jonathan Rice, said.
“Basically, I don’t think the family is too happy,” Rice said. “The long and the short of it is there’s no justification for what the officers did in the incident. He would have prevailed at trial, and that’s why they made an offer of such a significant amount.”
An offer of judgment is different from a settlement offer in that the case is closed in favor of Mota, while a settlement goes down as a victory for no one.
Still, the lawyer for officers Paul Nelson and Jose Quinoy said the judgment and $200,000 were not an admission they violated Mota’s rights.
“They still maintain they did nothing wrong in this incident,” lawyer Lewis Silverman said.
The offer of judgment and the payment, he said, were made in consultation with the village, its attorneys and its insurance company. Nelson declined to comment. Quinoy could not be reached for comment. He was acquitted in July of violating the civil rights of a village resident in another stun-gun incident and witness tampering. The jury deadlocked on another civil rights charge. He will find out tomorrow whether federal prosecutors will retry him.
Sleepy Hollow Mayor Kenneth Wray also said there was no admission of wrongdoing by the Police Department.
“This was a case that went on for a long time and was one of several lawsuits we inherited,” he said. “We’ve been focused on making the Police Department the best that it can be, and we felt that settling this lawsuit furthered that goal.” He said the insurance company “strongly encouraged” it to settle.
Mota was 16 when he was stopped by Nelson and Quinoy while riding a bicycle on a sidewalk on Aug. 24, 2007. The officers said he was in violation of a village ordinance and they needed to take the bike to the police station to see if it was stolen.
Mota fled, the officers gave chase and, when they caught him, Nelson used a stun gun to subdue him. He was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, but those charges were later dropped. He had asked for $80 million in the lawsuit.