Wednesday, August 5, 2009

August 5, 1998: Hells Angels Sue City for NYPD Misconduct

On August 5th, 1998, NYPD Detective Nicholas Cinalli led a raid of the Hells Angels' East 3rd Street clubhouse on the premises of suspected drug trafficking and motorcycle theft. Eleven members of the motorcycle club were roused from their homes, and nine were arrested and taken away in handcuffs
The warrant the police had received stated that they were to search the first floor of the building only. However, a videotape taken by the officers demonstrated in court that the police ignored the boundaries of the warrant and searched the entire building. On the tape, Cinalli states that since the warrant is only for the first floor, the illegal search of the upstairs should be recorded on a separate tape. After the search, the officers apparently forgot about the incriminating evidence and gave the tape to Ron Kuby, the Hells Angels' attorney, who proceeded to file a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the city for violation of his clients' civil rights. In a Village Voice article on the incident, Kuby accused the police of using the facade of a "drug bust" as an excuse to gather information on the club, noting that not a single piece of evidence suggesting the use or distribution of drugs was found in the clubhouse.

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