Pastor's Son With Ties to Sean Bell Gets $125K From City for False Arrest
August 28, 2012
By James Fanelli, DNAinfo Reporter/Producer
BELLEROSE — The son of a Queens pastor received a $125,000 settlement from the city after suing cops for falsely arresting him in retaliation for his father speaking out about Sean Bell's death.
Julian Cabiness, 27, spent two months in jail in 2008 on a trumped-up murder charge because his father "invoked hostility from the NYPD due to his holding a memorial service for Sean Bell and due to his activism in his community regarding the Bell memorial service," according to a federal lawsuit filed in 2011.
Cabiness accused cops of a having a "vendetta" against his father and that police "effectively chilled the exercise of their First Amendment right." The city settled the suit on June 8, records showed.
"It was a joke, except to Mr. Cabiness," his lawyer, Fred B. Lichtmacher, told DNAinfo.com New York.
Cabiness' dad, the Rev. Caesar Cabiness, presides over the Praise Tabernacle Church, which is just a dozen blocks from where five officers gunned down an unarmed Bell in a hail of 50 bullets on Nov. 25, 2006.
The pastor, a former MTA bus driver, was friends with Sean Bell's father and had organized a memorial service for the slain 23-year-old in January 2008.
A month later, on Feb. 6., cops arrested Julian Cabiness without explanation as he left his Bellerose home in his car at 7:15 a.m. to pick up his daughter and take her to school, his lawsuit said. Cabiness accused the cops of waiting for him on the block and making a U-turn in order to pull him over.
More than four hours later, detectives placed him in a lineup, where a police confidential informant, who had a criminal record and was known to be unreliable, identified him as the killer in a 2003 murder, the lawsuit said. Cabiness claimed the lineup was biased and unfair because he was the only light-skinned African American in the group and only one other person matched his age range.
Cabiness was charged with second-degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon. He was also slapped with a drug possession charge after cops allegedly found residue of the crack cocaine in his car.
A Queens judge remanded Cabiness without bail, and he remained in jail until March 27, 2008, when Queens prosecutors dropped the murder and weapons charges.
A law enforcement source said the Cabiness case collapsed when the informant was charged with rape and he refused to testify unless he received a lenient plea deal.
"He was trying to bargain his testimony for a walk on the rape case," the source said.
Cabiness' lawsuit said Queens prosecutors offered him an adjudication in contemplation of dismissal, which would let him plead only to the drug charges in exchange for keeping his record clean.
The city Law Department said Cabiness' arrest was not police retaliation.
"The plaintiff's prosecution was handled in good faith, and his arrest was based on statements by an eye witness who also picked the plaintiff from a police line-up," said assistant Corporation Counsel Steve Stavridis. "There was no evidence on the claims of family-related retaliation. Based on the circumstances of this lawsuit, the settlement was the best course of action."
The lawsuit claimed cops "fabricated" the charge and prosecutors offered the ACD because "arresting officers had been severely compromised, the confidential informant had been severely compromised [and] there was literally no evidence of [Cabiness'] guilt."
"There was no information at all connecting [Cabiness] to the crime," Lichtmacher said. "He's a complete straight arrow. He never had a summons. ... The thing was unbelievable."