By ANDY NEWMAN and JOHN ELIGON
Published: November 2, 2008
Stephen C. Jackson and Kevin L. Mosley, civil-rights lawyers for a man who claims the police shoved an object into his rectum in a Brooklyn subway station last month in the middle of the day, readily concede that the case is a weird one. But Mr. Jackson adds a distinction.
“Weird but true,” Mr. Jackson said. “Fortunately or unfortunately, I seem to be a magnet for these kinds of controversies.”
Indeed, Mr. Jackson, best known till now for being jailed on contempt charges during the Tawana Brawley defamation trial in 1998, has seen his share of strangeness over the years. But he and his officemate Mr. Mosley say that while the account of the man, Michael Mineo, may have prompted more puzzlement than citywide outrage so far, events will bear him out.
“We’ll wait to see what comes out officially, but what’s been revealed unofficially is consistent with what Michael said,” Mr. Mosley said on Friday after newspapers reported that an officer had backed up some aspects of Mr. Mineo’s brutality claim. “We’ve always had faith in what Michael said.”
Mr. Mineo, 24, a body piercer at a tattoo parlor, says through his lawyers that on Oct. 15, four officers chased and beat him in the Prospect Park station and shoved something into his rectum. He was hospitalized; his lawyers say doctors attributed some of his injuries to “anal assault.”
In the official police version, officers approached Mr. Mineo believing that he was smoking marijuana, tackled him after he ran, and, finding no drugs, gave him a disorderly-conduct summons. A police spokesman has said that Mr. Mineo’s assault claim “is not supported by independent civilian witnesses.”
An investigative grand jury is weighing the divergent accounts.
Mr. Mosley, 49, and Mr. Jackson, 50, who share a modest office on the 23rd floor of the Empire State Building with Mr. Mosley’s law partner, Howard E. Shafran, have been toiling in civil litigation since the mid-’80s. They spend a lot of time suing the police and other authorities on behalf of people who claim they were injured, mistreated or discriminated against.
Though they insist that they and their client are motivated only by a desire for justice and not by a possibly huge payout — “A lot of clients ask, ‘What is my case worth?’ Michael has never said that,” Mr. Mosley said — this is the highest-profile case in which either man has played a leading role. Mr. Mosley said that Mr. Mineo called him after learning of his practice.
Mr. Jackson, the more soft-spoken of the two, at least in a formal interview, has traveled a varied road since graduating from New York Law School in 1986. He was the lawyer for a legal-referral service marketed to blacks during a brief and exciting time when their pitchman was a post-acquittal O. J. Simpson.
He has represented a subway-obsessed man named Darius McCollum, who has a long record of impersonating transit employees and stealing the odd train. Mr. Jackson, a former pro boxer, was the lawyer for the boxer Mitch Green, who sued Mike Tyson after a street brawl.
Foremost among the curiosities in Mr. Jackson’s case files, though, is the saga of Tawana Brawley, the black teenager from Wappingers Falls, N.Y., whose ultimately discredited claim of being raped by a group of white men has been cited as a possible precedent by those skeptical of Mr. Mineo’s account.
In a 1997 defamation suit brought by a prosecutor whom the Rev. Al Sharptonand two advisers had accused of participating in the attack on Ms. Brawley, Mr. Jackson defended one of the advisers, C. Vernon Mason.
Mr. Jackson’s contribution to the circus atmosphere that pervaded the eight-month trial was to be cited for contempt twice in two days and to spend a night in the Dutchess County lockup after disobeying the judge’s order to keep quiet.
“I wear it, quite frankly, as a badge of honor,” Mr. Jackson said of his jail stint, though he added that the sentence was unwarranted. In that assessment, he is not alone. At the time, even the plaintiff, Steven A. Pagones, said that Mr. Jackson had behaved no worse than others at the trial. (Mr. Pagones was awarded $345,000 in damages from the defendants.)
In his extralegal life, Mr. Jackson, the son of a postal worker and of the rough streets of Brownsville, Brooklyn, claims credit for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s eventual decision to allow free transfers from buses to subways. He said the abolition of two-fare zones was a main plank in his unsuccessful 1994 bid for State Assembly in his adoptive home district of Hollis, Queens, where most residents live far from the train. “I was the initial vociferous advocate for the abrogation of that,” he said.
Mr. Jackson also had the baffling experience of going to bed one night in 2001 thinking he had won a City Council seat with 97 percent of the vote in, only to wake up in the morning to find he had finished fifth in a field of six. (Early news reports appeared to have been premature.)
Mr. Mosley, for his part, has represented Morgan Stanley employees who said they received bigoted e-mail messages. He has sued on behalf of homeless families who said they were mistreated by shelter staff members and argued before the World Trade Center compensation board, earning a relatively generous award for the family of a victim with a modest income.
In his formative years after law school at St. John’s, working for the lawyer F. Lee Bailey, Mr. Mosley helped represent families of the victims of Korean Air Lines Flight 007, which was shot down over Soviet airspace in 1983. Mr. Mosley also helped represent two brothers who were shot by an off-duty police officer in 1987 in the Bronx and were awarded $1 million in damages, though the figure was later cut to $50,000.
Mr. Mosley’s interest in taking on the authorities might seem at odds with his origins. His father was a prosecutor in the Bronx and Queens and his mother worked in information systems for the Police Department. But in many ways, Mr. Mosley said, the work his parents did laid the foundation for his beliefs.
“I learned from them there’s a right and there’s a wrong,” he said. “And when you see something wrong, it’s wrong.”
Over the course of more than a dozen years sharing quarters and cases, Mr. Mosley, whose cluttered office is filled with his children’s artwork (his license to practice in federal courts is obscured by a multicolored heart and a coloring-book Batman), and Mr. Jackson, who favors posters of boxers, have developed an easy rapport that can seem like something out of a buddy movie.
After a hard day in court, Mr. Mosley said, they will fetch their acoustic guitars from their respective offices and repair to a conference room. “I’ll put a little rhythm down, a blues thing, we start jamming,” he said. “Steve loves Hendrix.
“This is in addition to the dozens of million-dollar cases,” Mr. Mosley hastened to add.