Over 22,000 New Yorkers—many of them black men—will stand to receive a portion of the $15 million that Judge Shira Scheindlin ordered the city to pay to those prosecuted under a voided loitering law. Under the law, police were able to harass and eventually arrest panhandlers at their discretion.
One of the men arrested under this voided law was a 44-year-old homeless man named Eddie Wise. After being arrested 22 times in a 2-year span for the same voided law, he decided to do something.
Wise was able to get lawyer Lisa C. Cartier Giroux to look into his case, and what she found was startling. The very loitering law Wise had been arrested for had been ruled unconstitutional nearly 15 years earlier.
Giroux would hand the case over to McGregor Smyth, who runs Bronx Defenders— and the rest, as they say, is New York legal history. Judge Scheindlin found the NYPD in contempt of court, and forced them to pay $15 million in damages to those unlawfully arrested.
Unfortunately the majority of those prosecuted—a huge number of them black men—were extremely poor or homeless, thus they had no permanent address or phone. Fortunately the current crop of homeless living in New York will no longer have to face the same level of harassment from those sworn to protect and serve.