The police are meant to maintain peace and keep you safe. While most police officers in Philadelphia respect the civil rights of suspects, some cross the line, willfully violating a suspect’s civil and constitutional rights.
Imagine how helpless one feels when the person sworn to protect works against them. This is the situation Andre Phillips – a resident of Philadelphia felt in an encounter with a police officer (Alex Cricelli) in 2016.
Unlawful Arrest and Malicious Prosecution
On the 28th of May 2016, around 10 pm, Andre Phillips was walking on the 3100 block of Diamond Street in Philadelphia when Alex Cricelli saw an unidentified man throw away a firearm and drive off fast. Police officer Alex Cricelli tried to make a fast U-turn and chase after the unknown man’s car, but it was long gone by the time he’d turned.
The police officer exited his car and ordered Andre Phillips, a pedestrian, to fall to the ground. Andre Philips complied, and Alex Cricelli approached, stomped on Andre’s hand, and broke his finger. Alex Cricelli claimed Andre possessed the firearm that the unknown man discarded.
Police officer Alex Cricelli proceeded to complete his police paperwork and included the falsified claim. Because of this information, Andre Phillips was charged with Possession of a Firearm, which is a felony. According to court records, the unlawful arrest coupled with malicious prosecution led to Andre losing his job and being jailed for 558 days.
The court proceedings initiated were based on the unlawful arrest, and on 7th December 2017, a jury found Andre Phillips not guilty, putting an end to his nightmare.
However, Andre Phillips sued the city of Philadelphia for his losses citing the following:
- The defendant (Police officer Alex Cricelli) is responsible for the harm intentionally inflicted on him.
- Mr. Phillips spent 558 days behind bars. Moreover, he suffered emotional stress, humiliation, and anguish due to the unlawful arrest and malicious prosecution.
The city of Philadelphia offered Andre $20,000. He opted to take the case to a jury trial.
The trial, presided over by Judge Charles J Cunningham III started on 30th December 2021 and took three days. Mr. Phillips was represented by Derek Steenson, Attorney At Law.
The jury found in favor of Andre Phillips on accounts of False imprisonment/false arrest, malicious prosecution, and damages.
As a result, the jury awarded Andre Phillips compensatory damages of $200,000 and $75,000 in punitive damages.
Victims of Police Misconduct
While this was a win for Andre Phillips, there are many others who’ve suffered the same fate but weren’t as lucky to get compensated. To help give residents a voice against police misconduct, the city of Philadelphia has a platform where residents can file their complaints. The complaints can be made online, by mail, email, or in person.
Victims of police misconduct can file a lawsuit against the police department. The case should be made within two years of the police misconduct, including assault, wrongful arrest, false information, and illegal searches. Failure to start the legal process in good time often means losing the right to compensation.
The exception to this rule is in cases involving children. Because children can’t file a lawsuit, their two-year countdown starts on the day they turn 18 – when they can legally file a suit for compensation.
According to PA law, police misconduct includes:
- Using deadly force
- Illegal detention
- False arrests
- Jail neglect
- Malicious Prosecution
Though police misconduct cases often center around the officer involved, the reality of the liability of the misconduct falls on the City of Philadelphia. The insurance carriers of the City and Police department handle the settlement or the jury verdict.
Civil cases to prove liability are different from an officer being convicted for misconduct. Criminal cases against these officers are handled by a different court system than liability suits.