After a court case that has lasted nearly nine months, a Yale student who was arrested at the beginning of the school year by the New Haven Police Department on charges of disorderly conduct was offered one month of probation in exchange for his record being cleared in court on Monday.
But Ilan Zechory ’06, who was arrested on Aug. 29, said he believes his arrest was unwarranted and has accused two New Haven Police Department officers of using excessive force during the arrest. Although Zechory said he was not pleased by the outcome of the case, he said he hopes Monday’s hearing will be its last phase.
“It’s not at all a satisfactory resolution, but I’m glad to get it out of the way,” Zechory said.
NHPD spokeswoman Bonnie Winchester said earlier this year that Zechory, who lives in the Oxford Apartments on High Street, was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and interfering with an officer after he repeatedly disobeyed police who were attempting to break up parties at the Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Sigma Nu fraternities.
But Zechory, who spent the night following his arrest in jail, said he was wrongfully arrested after NHPD officer Marco Francia overreacted to his request to stay on the steps outside his home.
“It was late at night, and the frat parties were starting to clear up,” Zechory said. “[Francia] was asking students to move from the street. Since I lived in the building, I asked him if I could remain on the steps, and he took that as a challenge.”
Zechory, along with several students who witnessed the incident, said that Francia put Zechory in a headlock while officer Jillian Knox hit Zechory over the head with a flashlight. Zechory was not taken to the hospital for treatment, but he said several medics were called to treat contusions on his face and to clean up blood that had stained the police car.
Francia did not return repeated calls for comment this week.
After being released from jail at 9:30 the next morning, Zechory filed a civilian complaint against Francia and Knox with the NHPD Department of Internal Affairs. Nine months later, he said, the NHPD told him that Chief Francisco Ortiz had determined Francia did not use excessive force in the arrest. Both Winchester and Capt. Stephen Verrelli, Francia’s direct superior, could not confirm the result of the internal investigation and said they will no longer discuss Frania’s conduct with the press.
Despite his stated desire to sue the NHPD, Zechory said his lawyer advised him not to pursue legal action because an NHPD policy against settling cases without a trial would have cost him more money than he would have received had he won the case.
“If I were to sue, it would cost an average of $100,000 for a $50,000 settlement,” he said. “[The policy] puts you in a bind unless you have unlimited money.”
Zechory’s complaint is not the only one the NHPD has received against Francia. David Atlas ’08 said Francia arrested him without provocation and taunted him for several hours after his arrest in early November. In September 2004, Samuel Espinosa ’06 accused Francia of mistreatment while Espinosa was being arrested on charges of interfering with a police officer. Later that year, Francia and two other officers were sued by Seymour, Conn., resident Garrett Vorio, who alleged that police officers beat him after he attempted to spit on them, the New Haven Register reported. A federal jury rejected Vorio’s claims.
Atlas, who was charged with conspiracy to commit criminal mischief in the third degree and larceny in the sixth degree, said he was prevented from taking legal action against the NHPD. Atlas told the News this past January that the prosecuting attorney would only drop the charges against him if he agreed not to sue the NHPD.
Zechory will next appear in court two weeks from now, when the court will make its final ruling on whether or not probation is an appropriate punishment.