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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Police union chief denies brutality claim

The Journal News by Will David - August 6, 2008

YONKERS - The president of the city's police union yesterday denied claims by a 26-year-old city man that he was hunted down and beaten by police investigating a bar brawl involving injured off-duty police officers two years ago. Detective Eddie Armour said Rui Florim, who filed a $20 million lawsuit against the city, is a member of a Yonkers street gang known as the Hoover Boys and was injured during his arrest in July 2006 because he fought with on-duty plainclothes officers trying to arrest him. "Our contention is that he violently tried to resist arrest," Armour said. Jonathan Lovett, Florim's lawyer, filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in White Plains alleging the police planned an attack on Florim, deprived him of his civil rights and denied him access to a lawyer for several days after his arrest. Florim says police pulled him out of a car his girlfriend was driving and beat him, after he left his job at a restaurant in Hartsdale. Asked during a news conference held in the union office whether Florim was beaten by arresting police as retaliation for the injured officers, Armour replied, "We don't engage in payback. Those officers went there with the specific purpose to place Rui Florim in custody." On May 19, several off-duty Yonkers officers were at the Tyrone House, a popular waterfront bar on Main Street, when they became involved in a fight with Florim's group. During the incident, Officer Joseph Licht was dragged out of the bar, hit in the head with a golf club and his wallet was stolen, police said. Florim and Alex Millan were seen on videotape re-enacting how Licht was beaten, Armour said, and using his credit card to buy gas and other items. Also injured were off-duty officers Jesus Padilla and Stefano Rissdorfer. Padilla was kicked in the face and so was Rissdorfer, who required five surgeries to his repair his mouth.

Lucian Chalfen, a spokesman for Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore, said Florim has a pending misdemeanor assault case in connection with the beating of the officers. Chalfen said Florim's co-defendants - Andrew Birkenfeld, then 21, and Juan Faneytt, then 22 - pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault in the case. Millan is due in court tomorrow for a felony hearing on a charge of grand larceny in connection with the theft of Licht's wallet. "These are not great guys," said police Commissioner Edmund Hartnett. Hartnett, who was not commissioner at the time, said that during Florim's press conference, Lovett did not say some defendants pleaded guilty, several officers were injured and Licht was hit in the head with a golf club. "Luckily, he (Licht) was not killed when he was hit in the head with a golf club," said Hartnett noting the officer was out of work for a month. Florim has been a member of the Hoover Boys since 2001, Armour said. He has been arrested 10 times in Yonkers, Eastchester and New Rochelle. A sneaker with Licht's blood on it was found in Florim's house when police went there to execute a search warrant, Armour said. Florim's girlfriend told police he was involved in the fight as did an independent witness who was in the bar and is not a police officer, Armour said.

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