Former Atlanta Hawks center Pero Antic is suing New York City and three of its police officers over an April 2015 nightclub incident that ended then-teammate Thabo Sefolosha’s season and landed them both in jail, according to court documents.
Sefolosha also plans to file suit, said attorney Alex Spiro, who will represent both men. Sefolosha had filed no case as of Monday morning, and Spiro said he didn’t know when he would file.
“The (New York Police Department) has all but conceded that they falsely and improperly arrested Pero Antic. They will now be held responsible,” Spiro said.
The New York County District Attorney’s Office dismissed disorderly conduct and obstruction charges against Antic in September. A New York jury found Sefolosha not guilty of the same charges, and an additional count of resisting arrest, the following month. Jurors deliberated for 30 minutes.
How did this start?
The incident began about 3 a.m. on April 8, 2015. Antic and Sefolosha had finished a game in Atlanta and flown to New York, where they visited celebrity hotspot 1OAK, a club in the city’s Chelsea neighborhood.
As the two were in the club, another pro hoopster, Chris Copeland, who was not with Antic and Sefolosha, was stabbed outside the club, in front of the Fulton Houses projects down the street, according to a 1OAK statement.
The club shut down immediately after the incident, 1OAK said. According to Antic’s lawsuit, he and Sefolosha were told the club was closing and made their way to the exit.
“As the plaintiff was exiting the lounge, members of the NYPD were forcefully pushing patrons that were exiting the club … and demanding they walk in a particular direction,” the lawsuit says.
Then what happened?
When they got outside, Antic began calling a car service, and “without any provocation or probable cause,” NYPD officers began using excessive force on Antic and Sefolosha, according to the lawsuit.
“When members of the NYPD were pushing and shoving Mr. Sefolosha to the ground, plaintiff asked why they were treating Mr. Sefolosha in such a forceful manner. The defendants then forcefully pushed plaintiff to the ground and then ordered him to remain there. The plaintiff did not resist at any time,” it states. “The plaintiff was arrested for simply standing on the sidewalk and being a witness to unlawful NYPD actions.”
A police report obtained by CNN affiliate WABC alleged that Sefolosha had interfered with the Copeland crime scene, but the station noted that the Hawks appeared to be more than 100 feet away from the spot where Copeland was stabbed.
Shortly after the incident, TMZ Sports released video that shows a group of police officers arresting the 6-foot-7 Sefolosha and taking him to the ground. It also shows an officer producing a baton and extending it, but what may have caused the injury is not clear in the video. Sefolosha limped as officers led him away. In video taken the next morning, officers escort a limping Sefolosha out of a police station.
Blow to Hawks’ championship hopes?
The Swiss-born Sefolosha, a stalwart defender, suffered a fractured fibula and ligament damage, which ended his season just days before the Hawks entered the NBA Playoffs as the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed. Sefolosha would’ve been tapped to guard superstar LeBron James in the Eastern Conference Finals, which the Hawks lost in four straight games.
Sefolosha blamed the NYPD for his injuries. He and Antic vowed to fight the charges.
“I am extremely disappointed that I will not be able to join my teammates on the court during the playoffs and apologize to them for any distraction this incident has caused,” Sefolosha said at the time. “I will be cheering for them every step of the way and will be diligent in my rehabilitation.”
Sefolosha returned to the Hawks this season and has played 70 games for them so far. Antic, a Macedonian, now plays for Fenerbahçe in the Turkish Basketball Super League.
Antic’s lawsuit names the city and at least three police officers. Among the allegations outlined are that the NYPD falsely arrested him, administered excessive force, maliciously prosecuted him, and negligently hired, trained and supervised its officers.
Because of the NYPD’s actions, the lawsuit alleges, Antic “incurred legal fees, lost earnings, suffered reputational harm” and “emotional harm and mental anguish.” It further claims that Antic’s and Sefolosha’s Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights were violated.
What else does the lawsuit say?
“The charges brought against the plaintiff by defendants were solely for the purpose of shielding and/or purportedly justifying the unconscionable arrest and unlawful treatment and abuse perpetuated upon the plaintiff and his teammate,” the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit asks that a jury determine damages. The notices of claim filed last year indicate Antic can recover as much as $25 million, while Sefolosha is eligible to receive up to $50 million, according to multiple media reports.
Reached for comment, the NYPD responded, “Due to pending litigation, we will refrain from commenting on this case. Please be referred to the Law Department for comment.”
Nick Paolucci, a spokesman for the New York City Law Department, said, “We will review all the allegations once we receive the complaint.” The department did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment Monday.