Opening Statements In Thabo Sefolosha Trial

In a perfect world, Thabo Sefolosha would be preparing for a pre-season game against LeBron James but Thabo Sefolosa is 800 miles north, in a courtroom in Manhattan Criminal Court where he will be judged by a jury of four women, two men, one of whom is black. The selection of a juror with similar racial compositions to the Atlanta Hawks defender was an important win for Sefolosha’s lawyer, Alex Spiro, who plans to put race on trial, particularly how racial biases is so embedded within NYPD culture, it creates hostility and aggression.

“Are you all willing to understand that we’re all swayed at some level by implicit racial biases” was the sociological question Spiro asked prospective jurors.

Implicit racial biases are those stereotypes we act upon most of the time, without even knowing it, that’s how deeply they are rooted in our subconscious and culture. By establishing implicit racial bias as a institutional and cultural reality within the fabric of American society and its ruling institutions, it doesn’t matter if the police deny they treated Sefolosha in an aggressive manner because of his race. Implicit biases are pervasive and ubiquitous, everyone has them.

It was in the early morning hours of April 8th when Thabo Sefolosha and teammate Pero Antic went to a club in Chelsea. The Atlanta Hawks were in town to play the Brooklyn Nets; they had just arrived in the city. The Nets game was the second game of a back to back for the Hawks.

Other NBA players were at the nightclub as well. Chris Copeland of the Indiana Pacers, in town to play the Knicks, was a patron of the club and as it was closing down, Copeland, outside the club by now, was attacked, stabbed, as was his companion and another woman. Sefolosha and Antic were outside too and witnessed the attack and that’s when Sefolosha found himself in the midst of what #blacklivesmatter considers police brutality.

This is a case of who do you believe.

The NYPD’s version of events is that six separate officers asked Sefolosha to fall back, to get out of the way, to leave the crime scene. They then say Sefolosha charged at an officer and while he was being arrested, Sefolosha contorted his body in such a way he was responsible for his own broken leg. In effect, Sefolosha battered himself.

Sefolosha was charged with resisting arrest, misdemeanor obstructing government administration, and disorderly conduct. He was offered a generous plea deal- a day of community service- that would have wiped clean the entire incident but he wants his innocence on public record. “He wants to be vindicated”, Spiro said of his client after the plea deal was refused.

Thabo Sefolosha’s version of events is that he may have been verbally aggressive in his contact with police but he didn’t charge anyone and that the NYPD, upon hearing him say a few things, were hostile, physically belligerent and racially biased in arresting a civilian, and furthermore, the NYPD was acting on their long histology of racial bias when they slammed Sefolosha to the ground, broke his leg, shattered ligaments, handcuffed him and dragged him limping and injured to the squad car. (This case reeks of a police brutality civil trial.)

The prosecution plans to call six police officers to the stand as witnesses. The defense was denied a motion to review the records of the police officers to see if they had previous incidents of brutality in their working history. It is unclear if the judge will allow the defense to introduce past racial patterns of the NYPD, including their long list of victims and civil settlements.

The trial is expected to last until Friday.

photo via llananba