Thabo Sefolosha Tells His Story of Assault by the NYPD Pigs...

stringer bell
stringer bell Members Posts: 26,212 ✭✭✭✭✭
The Atlanta Hawks' plane touched down in Newark at about 1 A.M. on April 8. Spirits were high. Hours earlier the team had blown out the Suns in Atlanta. Two weeks before that they had clinched the top seed in the NBA's Eastern Conference. New York is a city Thabo Sefolosha, the Hawks' cerebral 31-year-old Swiss–South African shooting guard, has always loved. One of the league's best perimeter defenders, Sefolosha is an indispensable role player—the guy who guards LeBron or Kobe with the game on the line.

After the Hawks checked in at the Ritz in downtown Manhattan, Sefolosha and his teammate Pero Antic headed for 1 Oak, a popular Chelsea nightclub. They arrived around 2:30 A.M. As it happened, another NBA player—the Bucks' Chris Copeland—was also at the club, though Sefolosha didn't know it. At about 4 A.M., Copeland got into an argument on the street outside and was stabbed by another man. The police shut the club down and hundreds of people, including Sefolosha and Antic, flooded West 17th Street.

Two TMZ cell-phone videos show what happened next. At least five officers violently force Sefolosha, in a black hoodie, to the ground. One officer brandishes a retractable baton over Sefolosha's prone body, then whips it downward. Offscreen, a woman's voice protests, "They didn't do anything!" Sefolosha tells the officers, with astonishing calm, "Relax, man." Eventually he is led away, limping and in handcuffs. His injuries would end his season.

The cops later claimed that Sefolosha hadn't cooperated when they told him to leave the scene and became so aggressive that he "charged" at them. They arrested him for disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and obstruction of governmental administration. This fall, Sefolosha rejected multiple plea deals, daring the city to dismiss his case or go to trial.

On October 9, after deliberating for just 45 minutes, a jury exonerated him totally. Two weeks later, he announced that he was suing the New York Police Department for $50 million.

About 4:15 A.M., they turned the lights on at the club and told us it's time to go. Something happened, we're not exactly sure what. The police are outside closing the place down—directing people, telling them to move.

An officer came over to me and said, "Get the hell out!" I said, "Did I do something wrong? You can talk to me in a nicer way." I didn't quite understand why he had to come at us so hard when there were so many other people around. We moved, but he kept telling us to get the hell out. I told him we were listening to him: "You are the police, but you don't have to act like you're the toughest guy on earth." He said, "With or without a badge, I can ? you up." Like, whatever. We're not about to find out. I'm the last guy who gets physical with anybody, especially the police. At the same time, I felt singled out for no reason. He was much shorter than me. [Sefolosha is six feet seven.] I said, "You're a midget, and you're mad." I voiced my opinion, but I kept moving.

By then I was in the street, around many other people. I asked him where he wanted me to go. He said, "Keep moving until I tell you to stop." I joined the rest of the people, next to a pizza place, and that's when five or six or seven other officers surrounded us. It felt like I had done something wrong. Probably they heard what I said and decided, "We're going to make sure this guy knows that we're the police and that basically we rule." They told me I had to leave the scene. They were almost provoking me, challenging me. I didn't want to react to them.

I was just getting into a livery cab—one of the cops opened the door and said, "Get out of here"—when a homeless man asked me for money. I took out twenty bucks. When I made a few steps toward the guy, an officer said, "You're going to jail." Pero tapped the officer on the shoulder and said, "Relax, he didn't do anything." Another officer pushed him in the chest and he fell. That's what the first YouTube video showed—him on the floor.

More officers started grabbing me. I was trying to put the money back in my pocket. Usually I don't carry that much, but I had six or seven hundred dollars in my hand. One officer pulled me from my right arm, another grabbed me on my left, and another grabbed me on the back of my neck. I'm in, like, an on-a-cross type of position. I couldn't even move. It was just chaos. I had never been arrested before. I understood a little bit late that they were trying to put me on the ground, but if somebody grabs your arms and pulls you on your neck, you fall face first.

Somebody kicked my leg, more than once, from the back to force me to the ground. I knew something had happened as soon as they did it; I'm an athlete, so I know how my body should feel. They were stepping on my foot, too, I guess to try to keep me there. I didn't feel like there was anything I could do to calm it down. I tried to show them I was cooperating. I tried.

The main thing in my head, of course, was my leg. Just in that moment, the adrenaline prevented me from feeling too much pain. I noticed the swelling as soon as I got to the police station. At the precinct, it was very painful and I couldn't step on it anymore. They put Pero and me in a cell, then they brought in the guy who they believed had stabbed Copeland, so they moved us out and handcuffed us to some bars. We got out almost 12 hours later, after we had our hearing.

It was a tough meeting with my coach [Mike Budenholzer] at the hotel. Two weeks before the playoffs, the last thing that I wanted to happen was an injury, especially an injury that happened outside of the basketball court, at four in the morning. I really felt like I let the team down. But from the very start he said, "This is not normal. It should have never happened." From that point he had my back.

By the size of my [swollen] foot, I felt like it was super serious. I got X-rays that night from the Nets team doctor at Barclays Center. He said I had separated the ligament on the inside of my ankle, torn the ligaments on the front, side, and outside, and broken my fibula. As soon as he said that, I knew my season was over. The next day, I got a text with the video on it. In the midst of everything that's going on in the last two years on the TV—police this, police that—I couldn't believe something like this had happened to me. It was just unreal that something so small could turn into something this big.

I had surgery in Charlotte a week later. They went in and reattached the ligaments with a wire. They told me it would be months before I could go back on the court. For a time I couldn't even go upstairs and put my kids to bed. I had nightmares. I would wake up sweating in the middle of the night. I was dreaming not necessarily of that exact moment but more of the whole feeling about it—half scared, half nervous. It felt like I had been just one wrong move away from something much more serious happening. It was a long summer for me. I had nights where I came back after watching the team play, just feeling defeated and angry that all this had happened, and for no reason.

Everybody on my team had been counting on me. I don't get a lot of publicity for it because I never toot my own horn, but yeah, I think I'm possibly the best, or one of the best, defenders in this league. Not in a selfish way, but I like to think that maybe with me, we would have had a chance to win a title. I think I would have done a great job on LeBron [whose Cavs defeated the Hawks in the Conference Finals]. Watching my team from the bench was the worst experience a basketball player can have.


  • stringer bell
    stringer bell Members Posts: 26,212 ✭✭✭✭✭

    In September I went to New York, and they offered me this deal: one day of community service, with the charges to be dismissed after six months. My lawyer said that it was a very, very gutsy move not to take the deal. I don't think I realized quite fully how much of a risk it was. My lawyer had told me, "You're risking up to two years in jail for all this." But to accept the deal felt like admitting guilt.

    The charges against Pero were dismissed. I was still hoping that during that month between September 9 and October 5, they were going to drop the charges against me, too. I never had more than six hours’ sleep the whole month. I would wake up at 4:30 in the morning, and the first thing that would pop in my mind was, This is really going on. I lost 15 pounds that month from the stress.

    My mom was very scared for me. She said, "You're going against a big system. Don't stick your neck out too far." My wife and dad were outraged and in disbelief. He's from South Africa; he was in a band that was really active in denouncing the old apartheid movement. To think of this happening to his son in the streets of New York City in 2015—and I don't really want to make it as a racial thing. I want to let people make up their own minds.

    The charges were obstruction of governmental administration, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest. At the beginning of the trial, my lawyer showed new video clips his team uncovered and got the first cop to agree that I was complying with his order, that I was not committing a crime. It was great. The most ludicrous thing to listen to was that I charged an officer. I would never do that. They were trying to make it seem like they had a reason to arrest me. I'm sure that when you break someone's leg and you have video of one officer taking a baton out, you have a lot on the line.

    The D.A. said that I'm entitled and disdainful. It hurt, in a way. That easy and simplistic categorization of athletes: Oh, he's an NBA player, he's entitled, he's got money. Like, you don't know anything about me. Why don't you look at facts?

    The video was huge. It was everything. I really believe that without it, Pero and I could be behind bars right now. Because if you don't have real proof that you didn't do it and you have five, six officers saying that you did…

    My coach came to New York to testify as a character witness. He said that one of the main things that the Hawks are doing now is building a team around good character; that's a big part of how they select players. From a while back, he said, he knew what type of a player I am, what I bring on and off the court. He said I was one of his priority recruits when he became head coach of the Hawks [in 2013]. It was emotional, hearing him say those things, me feeling that I let the team down and him having my back like this. He was incredible throughout the whole ordeal.

    There was never any question about whether I would testify. No, let me tell them how I experienced the whole thing. My lawyer went over things with me once, just for an overall view of some of the questions that could come. I paid for my own representation. I don't really want to answer the question of how much it cost, but yeah, it's not cheap.

    I think the jury had made their minds up early. The burden was on the police to show proof of me doing anything wrong, and they didn't come with any other proof than five officers testifying to the exact same story. They didn't really try to find footage, they didn't really try to find other witnesses. The jury made the right decision, and it didn't take them long. I think it's a testimony of how they felt about the whole thing.

    I was a little surprised by how some of the media related the story. Instead of giving me the benefit of the doubt or just waiting for more information, in the eyes of many I was guilty of doing something wrong. Now that the verdict has been reached, I've definitely had a lot more texts now than when I got arrested. A lot of people who weren't there over the last six months reaching out: "We never doubted it." Yeah.

    I think there should be some sort of consequences for those officers for breaking my leg and not allowing me to play during the playoffs, and for me to still be recovering and not fully myself six months after that. The distress that I went through. I'm letting my agents and my lawyer figure things out. It's ongoing. Right now I want to concentrate on the season. I think I can help bring some light on the issue, but I don't think it's on me to be the face of a movement. Playing basketball is what I love to do.

    It's tough to think about what I could have done differently. I could have run two blocks away as quickly as I could. But in my mind, the police are under the same laws we are. Did I do something wrong because I said you can talk to me in a nicer way? What would I do the next time it happens? Well, I'll probably run next time. I'll probably say, "I don't want any part of this" and move as fast as I can.

    It was an act of police brutality, and I believe it could happen to anyone. Now I'm a lot more aware of everything that goes on. I've been, I don't want to say disillusioned, but brought back to earth in a harsh way. I look at videos of police brutality on YouTube or The other day I was watching this woman getting punched by the police for recording them arresting her husband. In a situation like this, you are helpless. If there's six people jumping me outside of the club, I scream, "Police, police!" If the police are doing this to me, who you want me to turn to?
  • numbaz...80's baby
    numbaz...80's baby Members Posts: 5,104 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Pigs being pigs
  • ZydecoShawty
    ZydecoShawty Members Posts: 2,936 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Institutional racism is just as dangerous as blatant racism.
  • Shizlansky
    Shizlansky Members Posts: 35,095 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited October 2015
    I just watched his interview.

    I believe him everything he said. Because he took them to trial and won.

    He could easily took that weak plea that would wipe it off his record in 6 months.

    ? them for trying to play that dude and costed him playoff games.
  • WhoisDonG???
    WhoisDonG??? Members Posts: 2,573 ✭✭✭✭✭
    They knew who he was they just wanted to play Mr. Tough guys. That's how these pigs act.
  • 5th Letter
    5th Letter Members, Moderators, Writer Posts: 37,068 Regulator
    ? outta here with that charged at the officer ? , I mean honestly who does that?
  • Billy_Poncho
    Billy_Poncho Members Posts: 22,382 ✭✭✭✭✭
    This story needs to blow up, it certainly would if he actually did what they say he did
  • Olorun22
    Olorun22 Members Posts: 5,696 ✭✭✭✭✭
    So he called him a name lol.. mf is sensitive about midget
  • Shizlansky
    Shizlansky Members Posts: 35,095 ✭✭✭✭✭
    En-Fuego22 wrote: »
    So he called him a name lol.. mf is sensitive about midget

    Little man syndrome.

    If you're under 5"9 you a lil ? , and you know short ppl are very sensitive about their height.
  • Peezy_Jenkins
    Peezy_Jenkins Guests, Members, Writer, Content Producer Posts: 33,205 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited October 2015

    In a situation like this, you are helpless. If there's six people jumping me outside of the club, I scream, "Police, police!" If the police are doing this to me, who you want me to turn to?

    people who make those "well if u dont like police call a crackhead" memes need to understand this
  • #1hiphopjunki3
    #1hiphopjunki3 Guests, Members, Writer, Content Producer Posts: 3,557 ✭✭✭✭✭
    I know he is reluctant to really be the face of this ? but he should be. Many don't have the resources he has to get proper representation and they go through the same thing he did.

    I know it's a hard thing for him to do but I seriously think he should speak out on this more public than he has. Or maybe take some of the money he gets from the law suit to help establish lawyer fees for people being put in this same situation.

  • Olorun22
    Olorun22 Members Posts: 5,696 ✭✭✭✭✭
    I know he is reluctant to really be the face of this ? but he should be. Many don't have the resources he has to get proper representation and they go through the same thing he did.

    I know it's a hard thing for him to do but I seriously think he should speak out on this more public than he has. Or maybe take some of the money he gets from the law suit to help establish lawyer fees for people being put in this same situation.

    i would be better if we would act like a community and fight white supremacy
  • Beta
    Beta Members Posts: 65,596 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Thabo from Switzerland though right? Police probably not like this there so he maybe a lil out of touch with the whole police thing