Alleging his transfer from the New Haven Police Department was a result of his arrest of two ministers, Officer Arpad Tolnay won a settlement of $5.2 million dollars after jurors found his civil rights were violated.
A federal jury on Monday awarded almost $5.2 million to a police officer who claimed his civil rights were violated when he was suspended and transferred because of his arrest of two ministers.
New Haven Officer Arpad Tolnay arrested the Revs.
Armando Hernandez and Daniel Rodriguez three years ago after a complaint about a loud revival service at the Second Star of Jacob Church.
Tolnay stopped a vehicle operated by Rodriguez for various motor vehicle violations but declined to issue any infractions because of the earlier situation.
The stated reasons for his suspension were insubordination and disrespect toward superior officers.
The arrests caused a political firestorm and DeStefano later went to the church to apologize, the New Haven Register reported.
An attorney for former Police Chief Melvin Wearing told the jury that Tolnay was suspended because he was insubordinate to Wearing and stormed out of an August 2002 meeting.
A number of witnesses during trial disputed Wearing's characterization of Tolnay's behavior.
But Tolnay's lawyer, Karen Torre, said he was suspended because he spoke out about his belief that politics were playing a part in the case.
"He's really happy for his fellow officers because he feels it will help them feel free to enforce the law without fear of the political ties of people who are arrested," Torre said Monday.
The jury decided that the suspension and transfer were motivated by Tolnay's statements about the political influence at play in the events, Torre said.
The community has a right to expect the men and women of the police
department will be able to do their jobs without improper interference and that the [community] will be protected."
A spokeswoman for the police department would not comment.
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