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NYC Prosecutor Drops Charges Against Cop: Retired professor says officer beat him

September 16 1998. AsianWeek, pg. 9

NEW YORK -- In a move that outraged many Chinese Americans, the Manhattan district attorney's office has dropped its investigation into charges that a police officer assaulted a retired professor, causing the 78-year-old man to have a stroke two days later.

According to court papers, Dr. Henry Huang, a former City College science professor and computer analyst, said the officer choked him and threw him to the floor after entering his apartment last summer. However, District Attorney Robert Morganthau, whose office looked into the allegations, announced last month that there was insufficient evidence to prove the brutality charge.

"Dr. Huang exhibited minor bruises and swelling, as well as various stroke-like symptoms over the course of several days after the alleged incident; the cause of many of Dr. Huang's symptoms could not be established," Morganthau said in a statement.

The accused policeman, referred to as Lt. Courtney, and another officer in the 19th precinct had gone to Huang's Upper East Side residence to respond to a neighbor's complaint that rainwater was backing up from their adjoining terraces.

According to Huang's lawyer, Steve Hogan, the retired professor was sitting in his living room with a relative when they suddenly heard loud knocking, and because visitors are usually announced outside the building, Huang didn't open his door immediately. When he did, Hogan said, the officer pushed his way into the apartment. Huang alleged that the officer put him into a chokehold, lifted him up, carried him into the bedroom and threw him on the floor, causing his head to hit the ground. Two days later, Huang suffered a stroke.

Hogan said that after the alleged assault, Huang asked the officer whether he had a search warrant, adding that the officers became angry and demanded that Huang produce ID.

Huang was hospitalized for a month after the incident. He is partially paralyzed and is undergoing physical therapy. "Up until then," Hogan said, "he was in perfect health."

An internal police department probe, meanwhile, has been turned over to the Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent city agency that investigates claims of police brutality, said Deputy Police Commissioner Marilyn Mode.

Jack Litman, another of Huang's attorneys, vowed to press on with the suit Huang filed last year against the police department. "We are saddened and dismayed by the D.A.'s decision.... It really is not right when a police officer chokes a 78-year-old man."

The case angered many Asian Americans. The New York chapter of the Organization of Chinese Americans sent a letter to Mayor Rudolph Giuliani describing Huang's charges and calling for an end to police brutality. The mayor's office did not return a reporter's phone calls seeking comment.

Betty Lee Sung, a former chair of the Asian studies department at City College and a friend of the Huang family, helped distribute a press release to raise awareness about the incident when the suit was filed in October. She said the family lives in constant fear they will be harassed again.

Especially disturbing, she said, is Huang's allegation that police demanded identification from him. "Perhaps they assumed that a Chinese person would be a foreigner. In fact, Dr. Huang has been in this country for 45 years and is an outstanding U.S. citizen."

Sung went on to note that Huang holds a Ph. D. in physical metallurgy. His brother, Henry Lee, recently became head of the Connecticut State Police.

"The policeman could not know that," Sung said. "All they could see was a Chinese man whom they could bully for no reason at all."


Copyright 1998 AsianWeek/Pan Asia Venture Capital Corp.

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