A jury Monday found no wrongdoing by Buffalo police in a violent arrest five years ago, so no damages were awarded in a civil case against the five police officers.
"The Lord watches over those who tell the truth," Police Officer Anthony Porzio said outside the courtroom after the State Supreme Court verdict.
Porzio was among the officers named in David Neal Mack's lawsuit, which alleged false arrest, battery and malicious prosecution following his Nov. 1, 2006, arrest.
Mack, 59, and one of his sons, Wesley, also arrested that day, sought nearly $18 million in monetary damages.
The events of that day, scrutinized in the trial and in previous proceedings, highlighted racial divisions on the Buffalo police force and in the community.
Cariol J. Horne, a former officer and African-American, was involved in an on-duty confrontation with a white police officer, Gregory Kwiatkowski, who she claimed was choking Mack during the arrest. She was fired from her job for interfering with the other officer, sparking outrage from her supporters.
The Macks are black, and all of the police officers they sued are Caucasians.
The jury, made up of five whites and one black, voted, 5-1, in favor of the police officers over Mack.
The only juror who sided with Mack was a black female juror.
"I'm extremely disappointed," said Anthony L. Pendergrass, Mack's attorney.
"She agreed Neal Mack was assaulted, falsely arrested, falsely imprisoned and maliciously prosecuted," Pendergrass said of the dissenting juror.
"It boggles the mind the other jurors didn't reach that conclusion," Pendergrass said.
All six jurors, who deliberated slightly more than four hours, agreed in denying Wesley Mack's claims.
Porzio said he struck Wesley Mack, 26, in the left shoulder with his nightstick because the son tried to shove past him to help his father resist arrest.
"It's fair and just, and 100 percent correct," said attorney Michael B. Risman, who, along with co-counsel Jeffrey T. Fiut, represented the police officers.
"We hope this closes the last chapter on this story," Risman said.
Throughout the two-week trial, Pendergrass challenged the accounts and highlighted inconsistencies in the stories told by the officers named in the suit: District Chief Kevin Brinkworth, a lieutenant at the time; and Officers Paul Sobkowiak, Ralph Skinner, Kwiatkowski and Porzio.
"This is your opportunity to do something for Neal Mack that should have been done five years ago," Pendergrass told jurors during his closing argument before Justice Tracey A. Bannister.
If the police can enter Mack's house without a warrant and arrest him, "sooner or later they'll come for you," he said.
But Risman argued police had probable cause to enter Mack's Walden Avenue home and arrest him and that they used appropriate force to subdue him.
A letter carrier flagged down Sobkowiak and alerted him to trouble brewing at Mack's house between Mack and his ex-girlfriend, Yolanda Wilkerson, about her Social Security check. She had gone to the house because that's where her check was still being delivered -- but Mack wasn't giving it to her.
"This, to me, is probable cause 101," Risman said.
Sobkowiak said he just wanted to retrieve the check for Wilkerson.
The officers contend Mack is the one who escalated their simple request to turn over Wilkerson's $626 check into a violent struggle.
"Just hand it over," Sobkowiak said after the trial, recounting his request of Mack. Although Mack brought out mail to the police -- Mack said he brought it all; the officers said he did not bring out the check -- he was not happy with the request and resented their presence at his home. An irate Mack started screaming obscenities, Sobkowiak said.
Soon, Mack and Sobkowiak were involved in a struggle, and other officers joined in.
Within minutes, more than a half-dozen officers had responded to the scene. After the fighting broke out, Mack was struggling against as many as four officers, wildly kicking, according to the officers' accounts.
Kwiatkowski said Monday's outcome "is the fifth time it has been proven" he has told the truth about what happened.
The jurors' verdict follows conclusions by an internal affairs review, a disciplinary proceeding against Horne and two defamation lawsuits he filed, one against Horne and the other against Pendergrass.