By David Caruso
The Associated Press
NEW YORK — A police officer who body-slammed an unarmed woman and broke her jaw during a medical call to a suburban restaurant last year was arrested Friday and charged with civil rights violations.
Federal prosecutors said Yonkers officer Wayne Simoes used excessive force when he grabbed the woman by the waist, hoisted her in the air and slammed her, face first, into a tile floor.
The takedown, recorded March 3, 2007, by security cameras, knocked Irma Marquez unconscious and put her in the hospital for four days. At the time, authorities said the officer was trying to keep her from interfering with emergency medical technicians summoned to the restaurant to assist her niece, who had been hit in the head with a bottle.
Simoes, 38, said little Friday during his arraignment. A magistrate released him on bond. His attorney, Andrew Quinn, said Simoes intends to plead not guilty.
"I've also seen the video, and I know what it shows. But what the video doesn't show is the operation of Wayne Simoes' mind at the time of this incident," Quinn said. He said Simoes didn't intend to violate the woman's rights or "cause any type of injury."
Simoes could get years in prison if convicted. The Yonkers Police Department said it had placed him on modified duty pending the outcome of the case.
Despite the nature of Marquez's injuries, which included a broken jaw and bruises over her entire face, law enforcement authorities initially sided with the officer.
Marquez was arrested and charged with obstruction of governmental administration, and an internal inquiry cleared Simoes of any wrongdoing. After the Justice Department informed the city that it was investigating, Yonkers Mayor Phil Amicone held a news conference to praise the department, saying its officers "do their jobs the right way in full accordance with the law."
A Westchester County jury, however, acquitted Marquez of the obstruction charge. Weeks later she sued the police department for $11.3 million.
Marquez's lawyer, Gary Certain, praised the FBI and the U.S. attorney for bringing the civil rights charge, calling it "a major step forward in addressing an alarming pattern of misconduct within the Yonkers Police Department."
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He acknowledged that Marquez had been emotionally distraught during the incident out of concern for her injured niece, but said she hadn't interfered with the EMTs and did nothing to provoke a violent attack.