We've seen some egregious examples of NYPD officers overstepping their duties to teach law-abiding citizens cruel lessons about carrying their ID at all times, criticizing stop-and-frisk, or daring to photograph a cop in public. The NY Times brings us the latest example of vindictiveness with a badge: officers arrested two professors who called 911 after one was suffering a routine medical emergency, despite them not doing anything wrong. "He said he needed to teach me the lesson that you are never allowed to touch a police officer," explained anthropology professor Suzanne LaFont.
LaFont and her husband Karl Anders Peltomaa, a professor of physics and math at The Art Institute of New York, were at their home on West 83rd Street last April when Peltomaa had a bad reaction to medication he was taking (he had undergone open-heart surgery a few days earlier). LaFont called 911, telling them they needed an ambulance and her husband was "freaking out," worried about his heart.
The couples' dog escaped the apartment when Officer Anthony Giambra first arrived; LaFont chased after the dog, and when she returned, she found her husband inexplicably against a wall being handcuffed. LaFont instinctively touched the officer’s shoulder and yelled at him to stop; she was arrested as well.
Giambra later claimed that Peltomaa was an "emotionally disturbed person" who “indicated that he was willing to be placed in handcuffs for his protection.” But he also said that Peltomaa fought back, kicking him in the groin and shin. He also claimed that LaFont grabbed him for a full minute. The couple denies those charges completely; Peltomaa says he didn't fight the officer, was confused why he was being handcuffed to go to the hospital, and says the officer shoved him face down on the tile floor, splitting open his chin and dislocating his thumb.
Peltomaa ended up spending two days in St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center with five stitches in his chin and electronic monitors keeping tabs on his ailing heart. LaFont was locked up for 19 hours before she was brought before a judge. The couple refused to take any plea deals, and fought up until this week to be totally exonerated.
That happened this week when Judge Steven M. Statsinger ruled that cops mishandled the call and injured an already sick man: “Defendant’s motion describes facts so extreme and unusual that this can truly be deemed sui generis,” Judge Statsinger wrote in his decision.
“I don’t think I can forgive what they did,” Peltomaa said. “I am continuously terrified I am going to meet this officer.”