ATLANTA — Hawks forward Thabo Sefolosha said Wednesday he has yet to decide whether he’ll file a civil suit against New York City and the arresting officers in an April 8 altercation that left him with a broken leg.
“I haven’t made a decision yet,” Sefolosha told ESPN.com following the Hawks’ 82-81 preseason loss to the Memphis Grizzlies at Philips Arena. “We filed [a notice of claim] about five months ago. It’s not breaking news or anything, but something to preserve my rights going forward if I do decide to sue.”
The filing of a claim with the appropriate court is the first step in a civil lawsuit and is accompanied by a specific monetary amount, along with an accusation that enumerates that number. Sources on Wednesday confirmed a New York Post report that the amount of the claim is $50 million, the maximum Sefolosha could see in any potential verdict.
Sefolosha has not yet filed suit against New York City or the officers involved in the incident, which occurred outside 1 Oak, a Manhattan nightclub, on April 8. Sefolosha suffered a broken right fibula and severe ligament damage during his arrest, injuries he said he suffered at the hands of the officers. On Oct. 9, a jury acquitted Sefolsoha of misdemeanor charges of obstructing government administration, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
“Right now I’m trying to reflect a little bit on everything that happened, and how much it affected me and my family,” Sefolosha said. “I’m also considering what it would mean to go back into the legal system. So there are different elements that factor into my decision and, of course, my health.
“Listen, I feel my ankle every day. Right now it’s one of those things where some days I can play a little bit through it, and I definitely want to be out there and help the team. I have it in the back of my mind for a while. I hope I can come back and feel the same way I felt before the injuries.”
Should Sefolosha proceed with the process, he then would travel to New York and give a sworn statement on an appointed date before lawyers for the city and the officers. Following the testimony, the city could settle with Sefolosha for a mutually agreed-upon amount. If the two sides couldn’t agree, Sefolosha could choose to execute his claim and sue.
In the criminal trial, the prosecution asserted that Sefolosha ignored orders from police to leave the area around a crime scene where Chris Copeland, then a forward with the Indiana Pacers, was stabbed. The prosecution also said Sefolosha charged one of the arresting officers.
Sefolosha testified that he obeyed the orders. Although he called a combative officer at the scene “a midget,” Sefolosha said, he was grabbed by several officers and pulled to the ground as he stopped to hand money to a panhandler.
Before the criminal trial, the district attorney offered to dismiss the charges against Sefolosha after six months in exchange for one hour of community service. Despite the favorable terms, Sefolosha rejected the plea deal, opting to go to court.
Earlier Wednesday, Sefolosha was interviewed via video conference by the Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent governmental agency in New York that evaluates police conduct. The CCRB renewed its investigation of Sefolosha’s case following his acquittal.
If the investigation by the CCRB finds the officers at fault and the allegations to be substantiated, the board will recommend to the police commissioner specific disciplinary action.
Sources close to the case said Wednesday that in addition to the CCRB, the department’s Internal Affairs Bureau has resumed its investigation of the arresting officers. The Office of the Deputy Commissioner, Public Information did not respond to a request for confirmation.
In four preseason games with Atlanta, Sefolosha has scored 20 points on a .526 true shooting percentage and collected seven rebounds in 58 minutes. Before the preseason, Sefolosha hadn’t played since the April episode in New York, and he missed the Hawks’ entire postseason run to the Eastern Conference finals. Widely regarded as one of the league’s premier perimeter stoppers, Sefolosha posted the best defensive rating on the team by a considerable margin and finished fourth among 95 qualified shooting guards in ESPN’s defensive real plus-minus metric.