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Crime Rockland attorney wins $650,000 judgment for inmate beaten by correction officers

23:45  25 february  2020
23:45  25 february  2020 Source:   lohud.com

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a man wearing a suit and tie: Stony Point attorney Michael Diederich running for Rockland district attorney in 2019 © Submitted Stony Point attorney Michael Diederich running for Rockland district attorney in 2019

WHITE PLAINS — Stony Point attorney Michael Diederich won a $650,000 jury award for a state prison inmate who was beaten by state corrections officers.

The jury verdict came earlier this month based on a legal action by Jerome Anderson and a civil trial in the federal courthouse.

Anderson, who was born in Buffalo and grew up in Alabama, is serving a 37-year prison sentence for a string of robberies and attempted robberies of fast-food restaurants in Brooklyn, Diederich said. He's been incarcerated for the past 21 years in New York after a prison stint in Alabama.

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JURY AWARD

LEGAL ACTION: inmate files legal action against state correction officers

Diederich said he proved at trial that the corrections officers made up a story to cover up their beating of Anderson at Green Haven Correctional Facility in Dutchess County in April 2015.

Anderson, 53, filed the legal action against the state and the correction officers representing himself. He suffered bruises from repeated blows to his head and body.

Diederich joined the case in December 2018 after being assigned randomly by the federal court and represented Anderson until the trial verdict on Feb. 14. He's on a list of attorneys who volunteer their services without charge.

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Diederich, 64, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and JAG prosecutor, handles civil rights cases. He ran for Rockland district attorney in 2019, losing to Thomas Walsh. He created a stir during the campaign by targeting the lack of secular education in Hasidic Jewish schools as a potential misdemeanor crime.

"I found Anderson to be a sincere person who made very bad mistakes in his life, and yet none of his crimes involved physically hurting anyone, nor stealing more than a few hundred dollars worth of money," he said.

Diederich said the case hinged on him showing the corrections officers lied about the circumstances leading them to beat up Anderson, claiming he punched two of the officers.

The officers claimed they brought Anderson in from the recreational yard for acting suspiciously by wearing too much clothing and keeping one hand in his pocket, Diederich said, recounting the case.

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They searched him and found two prescribed Neurontin pills, which is not a narcotic or controlled substance, Diederich said. Anderson, they claimed, became belligerent, cursing and punched two of the officers while being interrogated and threatened with having his cell searched, he said.

Diederich said he established during the trial that Anderson was on recreation restriction at the time, and therefore could not have been in the recreation yard.

Diederich said the eight-member jury "unanimously determined that New York state corrections officers brutally beat my client, and then attempted to cover up their misconduct by concocting a big, fat lie."

"The jury was obviously offended by this abuse of correction officer power, and therefore awarded substantial punitive damages to deter such conduct from occurring in the future," he said.

The federal jury awarded Anderson $75,000 in compensatory damages and $575,000 in punitive damages to deter similar future misconduct, Diederich said.

The judgment signed by Judge Vincent Briccetti and filed in federal court names Sgt. Robert Osborne, and officers Mathew Ernst, James Hennig and Robert Snedeker liable for $75,000 in compensatory damages. The jury found punitive damages of $275,000 against Osborne; $125,000 each against Ernest and Hennig; and $50,000 against Snedeker.

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The state Attorney General's Office represented the corrections officers. The office has 30 days to appeal the jury verdict.

Diederich said officers' attorney didn't dispute the fact Anderson's convictions never involved physical harm to anyone.

"In other words, he was a stupid young man, not a vicious young man, and as an African-American in the south, he did not fare well in the legal system," Diederich said.

The Attorney General's Office didn't respond to an email seeking comment on Tuesday morning. The office has 30 days from Monday to file an appeal.

"If the matter is appealed, I will defend the appeal vigorously and have all expectations that I will prevail for my client, Mr. Anderson," Diederich said.

Twitter: @lohudlegal

This article originally appeared on The Journal News: Rockland attorney wins $650,000 judgment for inmate beaten by correction officers

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