In front of a Chelsea nightclub in the early morning hours of April 8th, a crowd had gathered after three people were slashed with a knife. Segregated from police activity by tape, the bystanders were gripped by the chaotic scene.
Thabo Sefolosha was one of the crowd. The Atlanta Hawks defensive specialist was caught up in the events like everyone else. He hadn’t expected this though, this savagery on a night out meant to be a good time, a night that would end his season and have him in Manhattan Criminal Court.
On trial for resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and obstructing government administration, Sefolosha wasn’t as close to the crime scene as the prosecutors want the jury to believe. Sefolosha’s attorney, Alex Spiro, showed a video in which several bystanders were closer to the crime scene tape than Thabo Sefolosha. So why was he singled out?
“I don’t know what he ( Officer Giacona) saw. I think he saw a black man in a hoodie”, Spiro theorized.
That is the heart of Spiro’s defense, that the NYPD in general, and JohnPaul Giacona specifically- he was the first one who told Sefolosha to clear the area- acted with racial bias as they targeted 6-6 Sefolosha in his hoodie, exchanged a few words, engaged in a confrontation, used their batons, broke his leg and then arrested him for resisting. It all started because Sefolosha had a hoodie, the defense argued. It went unsaid- a hoodie like Trayvon Martin, a beating like Trayvon Martin, a defenseless black man like Trayvon Martin.
Jesse Matthews, the Assistant D.A. trying the case, portrayed Sefolosha by the familiar stereotypes that are often affixed to wealthy athletes by non-athletes as a way to imply professional athletes lack sensitivity, empathy and values. Sefolosha was overindulged and entitled and used to getting whatever he wanted so when Giacona told him to back off, to leave the area, Sefolosha, who wasn’t used to anyone telling him what to do, reacted violently. According to Matthews, Sefolosha called Giacona, “a midget”, an example of his scorn and contempt for the 5-7 Giacona who is a relatively new member of the NYPD, just three years of service.
“The defendant did not think he needs to obey the law. He does not like being told what to do.” (ADA Matthews)
In the early morning hour of April 8th, Indiana Pacer Chris Copeland was stabbed, as was his companion and another bystander. A cabaret unit of the NYPD that controls the bars and clubs were first on the scene. They had specific instructions to clear the crowd, according to NYPD testimony.
In Giacona’s statement of the events of that night, he told Sefolosha six times to move. But under cross-examination, Giacona admitted he couldn’t remember saying it more than three times. When asked about the injury to Sefolosha’s leg, Giacona said he didn’t hear batons being used and he had no idea how his leg was injured.
More NYPD officers to be called as witnesses on day 2.
photo via llananba